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Completed under the auspices 

of the 

Oral History Program 

University of California 
Los Angeles 

Copyright © 
IThe Regents of the University of California 

This manuscript is hereby made available for research 
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publication, are reserved to the 
University Library of the University of California at 
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
University Librarian of the University of California 
at Los Angeles. 


George Robert Groves was born on December 13, I901 in 
Saint Helens, England, a small town near Liverpool. He received 
early musical training from his father, George Alfred Groves, 
and became proficient 6n the trumpet. He attended grammar 
school at the Cowley School, Saint Helens, England, and later 
won a scholarship to Liverpool University, v/here he specialized 
in Communications Engineering. 

Upon earning his Bachelor of Engineering degree, with honors, 
in 1922, he went to work for the Peal-Connor Telephone Company 
in Coventry as an engineer, until he left England in 1923 to 
come to America. 

Mr. Groves' first position in America was with the Bell 
Telephone Laboratories, where he remained for two years, 
aiding in developing Improved telephone communications. 

In 1925, Mr. Groves was transferred to the V/arner Brothers 
organization which was, at that time, working in cooperation 
with the Bell Laboratories to develop synchronized sound for 
motion pictures. He became a sound mixer and recording engineer 
for Warner Brothers, where he remains to the date of this inter- 
view as Sound Director. 

Some of Mr. Groves' significant contributions to the 
development of sound for motion pictures include the innovation 
of multiple-microphone pickups, the recording of sound for 
Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer , and the development of stereophonic 

sound. He has been the recipient of eight Academy Award 
nominations and two Oscars. 

The following manuscript, based on interviews tape recorded 
In 1962, describes in Mr. Groves' words these and other aspects 
of his career. Records relating to the Interviews are located 
in the Oral History Office. 


INTERVIEWER: Elizabeth I. Dixon, Head, Oral History Program, 
UCJA. Age, ^8, B.A., International Relations, USC; 
M.t.S., Library Service, UCIA. 


Place: Mr. Groves' office at Warner Brothers Studios, 
Burbank, California. 

Dates: September 5, 19^2 and September 19, 19^2 . 

Length of sessions: There were two sessions, each 
of two hours' duration. 

Persons present during interview: Groves and Dixon. 

COi'TDUCT OF INTERVIEW: Mr. Groves was encouraged to talk 
greely and to reminisce, within a chronological framework, 
on the major developments in his career. 

EDITING: The verbatim transcript of the taped interviews 
was edited by the interviewer, Mrs. Elizabeth Dixon. 
Editing consisted of supplying proper spelling and 
punctuation, with only occasional slight rearrangement 
of word and sentence order; thus the final manuscript 
closely parallels the interviews. 

Mrs. Groves completely reviewed and approved the manuscripA^ 
making some changes in words and phrases, and infrequently 
deleting a paragraph or so of material. He also 
occasionally added a small amount of new material; the 
only major addition occurs from pages 68 to 73 of the 
final manuscript. 

No indications have been made on the final manuscript 
as to where the tape divisions occurred. They are as 
follows : 

Tape I, Side 1: p.l 

Tape I, Side 2: p. 27 

TaT5e II, Side 1: p. 50 

Tape II, Side 2: p. 64 

The indexing was done by Jack Vaughn. 

We'll start from the beginning with the beginning. 
First of all, of course, my name is George Groves. I 
was born in England in a manufacturing town about twelve 
miles from Liverpool called Saint Helens, which is 
famous mainly for being the home of Beechams Pills. 
When I was a small boy, the father of the great con- 
ductor. Sir Thomas Beecham, was the Mayor of Saint 
Helens. As a small boy, I had a pretty fair musical 
education. My father was a musician. He was interested 
in brass bands, of which they have quite a lot in Eng- 
land. At a very early age, as my parents told me, I 
tried to play the trumpet, and later, the French horn, 
I think this is of some interest, because in later 
years it controlled the work that I finally went into. 

I got a scholarship to a grammar school called 
Cowley School, which is equivalent to an American high 
school. While I was there, I used to take my trumpet 
to school and learned, for Instance, to transpose 
B-flat trumpet to play with the piano for singing les- 
sons which you know, is quite an advanced thing for a 
young boy to do. 

Before I completed the number of years I was 
supposed to be at this grammar school, it happened (and 
a lot of these things Just happened) that the trumpet 
player in the local theater got sick. Now I had played 

with amateur orchestras and bands as a youngster, and 
In desperation I suppose, they called my dad and 
said, "Can young George play the show tonight?" And 
I played the show in the local theater, which had a 
vaudeville house and a very "hard grind" place — two 
shows a night and a matinee on Monday and so on. I 
played the show and stayed. They kept me on as first 
trumpet in this theater. 

They had a matinee every Monday, so I had to skip 
school every Monday afternoon. This was accepted for 
awhile until finally the Headmaster of the school ob- 
jected. So I quit school and had a private tutor. 
Eventually I entered into competition with other boys 
for scholarships to the University. I competed with 
the boys in school and did pretty well. I won an 
engineering scholarship to Liverpool University. Now, 
here again, accidental things happened. My scholarship 
was called an open scholarship: I could actually choose 
the subject that I would take. It was a question 
whether I should take Medicine or Engineering. Like 
most young kids, I really didn't know what I wanted 
to do. I don't think one child in a hundred or a 
thousand actually knows what he wants to do. If they 
did, and worked towards that goal, they would be 
great successes. Oh, I visualized myself some day 
building bridges or doing some big engineering something 
or other, I don't know what. I chose to take Engineering 

and specialized (or majored) In Communications Engi- 
neering. I don't know how It Is In school here, but In 
England you enter school and the first year you take an 
over-all course--ln Engineering School It 's a lot of 
mathematics, and physics. As you go through each year, 
you gradually funnel down to the thing you are going to 
specialize In, I finally got down to Communications 
Engineering. In the meantime, during summer vacations, 
to help pay expenses, I played the trumpet and also the 
French horn In theaters In Liverpool, Saint Helens, and 
other towns where I was called upon to play. Now, In 
Liverpool University It was common, as In most univer- 
sities In England, that. If a man had a degree In En- 
gineering or Physics or one of the sciences, they would 
endeavor to place him In some forai of employment. He 
didn't have to go out and fand for himself. I came 
out with what Is known as an Honors Degree — a Bachelor of 
Engineering Degree with first class honors. This means 
that I got high grades In the school examinations. I 
was finally located by the University in the Peal-Connor 
Telephone Company In Coventry. 

I had specialized In transmission engineering. Now 
this Is the transmission of Intelligence, not power 
engineering. A transmission engineer In our terminology 
is a man who Is an engineer In speech circuits, you see. 
The power engineer Is concerned with the transmission of 
power for lighting, the operation of machinery, and so on. 

Transmission Is generally accepted as the engineering 
concerned with the transmission of Intelligence — speech — 
and this Is a form of study that I specialized In at 
school. As a result of that, I went to a telephone 
factory, where they manufactured telephone equipment, 
radio equipment, and equipment that transmits Intelli- 
gence. This was the Peal-Connor Telephone Company in 
Coventry, a branch of General Electric Company. 

Now, I had a desire to come to the United States 
because, to my young mind (and I think I was probably 
correct), the United States was the foremost country In 
the world In the development of the telephone, and broad- 
casting, and the transmission of intelligence by speech 
in one forro or another, 

I wrote to the Western Electric Company, the General 
Electric Company, and Westlnghouse, and received replies 
back from them to the effect that, since I was an alien 
on foreign soil, they could not offer me employment. 
However, from the Western Electric Company, I received a 
letter telling me that their Director of Research was in 
England at the time, and would be very pleased to talk 
to me if I would take the time to visit him in Manchester. 
I did; I talked to him, and he told me that they couldn't 
offer me employment, but if I every showed up in the 
United States they would be very happy to do what they 
could in the way of advancing my education and training. 

Primarily I wanted to get to the States and go to 

work for some research organization like the Bell 
Telephone Laboratories In New York, and I eventually 
succeeded In doing this. 

And after some interviews with the personnel people 
and the various department heads in the Bell Labs, 
they asked me what I would like to do. I was still 
pretty indefinite, so I was placed in the Research 
Service Department. This was a department that was 
concerned with budgeting of various scientific projects 
in the labs, the design and construction of trans- 
atlantic telephone cables and other big things, plus 
the research work that was going on in the business 
of making phonograph records and reproducing them 
through amplifiers and loud-speakers. It was prac- 
tically a natural thing that I should drift into it. 
It was not by design. I Just happened to be there. 
I had no idea that they were going to make talking 
pictures when I went into the Bell Labs at all. I 
never dreamed of it any more than anybody else in the 
world did, outside of a few engineers in the Bell 
Labs. So I Just happened to fall into it, and, as 
I say, my training and background, one way or another, 
made me quite well-suited for it. 

This also turned out to be a very good location 
for me because it gave me an opportunity to tour 
around the labs and observe the operation of a lot 
of departments. I had a job putting in some demon- 

stratlon equipment In the science building in Wash- 
ington, and so I got an over-all look at Bell Labs. 

While I was there, research on the telephone was 
progressing — improved transmission characterietlcs of 
the telephone, improved transmission and reception of 
speech, and the development of loud speakers . As a 
by-product of all this, and of studies on speech and 
hearing, came the system of electrical recording of 
records, called the Orthophonic Phonograph, which was 
adopted by the Victor Company. This new method re- 
placed the old acoustic method just using speech waves 
to drive some actuating device which would record 
grooves in a record;, like Edison did. Previous to 
this development, phonograph records were wr^de by 
talking into a horn— it was an acoustically-powered 
recording system like the old Edison Phonograph system, 
a little more refined than that, but nevertheless the 
whole recording system was actuated by voice power. 
Just by sound waves . 

It so happened that, while I was working in the 
Bell Labs (I was there for two years), I met people 
who were interested in music, and I played with quite 
a few orchestras in New York. One was an orchestra 
at the Germania Club that met in the Academy of Music 
Building in Brookljm. These were all Geiroan business- 
men, wonderful musicians, who would get together an 
orchestra of about fifty or sixty pieces, and I played 

with them. I played with a group of men who used to 
meet at their various homes and play chamber music. 
And I played with the American Orchestral Society 
which met every Sunday morning, I believe. I played 
with an Orchestral combination at City College In New 
York v/hlch met In the middle of the week under the 
direction of a man named Christian Krlens . That was 
an orchestra of over one hundred pieces. So I was 
quite Involved In music In Nev; Yoii<i not professionally, 
but just for fun. Eventually, I organized a small 
orchestra amongst the employees In the Bell Labs and 
conducted It — we had a lot of fun. 

This was In 1925. I was In the Bell Labs from 1923 
to 1925. I had just received my two-years-service cer- 
tificate from the Bell Labs when I was transferred to 
Warner Brothers. The engineers In the Bell Labs put 
on a demonstration of the synchronized motion picture 
and a synchronized disc (phonograph reco2?d) for various 
motion picture executives, and finally it was demon- 
strated to Mr. Sam Warner, one of the Warner Brothers, 
who died some years ago. Sam came to Nev/ York and saw 
this demonstration of synchronized sound and picture 
In the Bell Labs. He thought it was a wonderful thing, 
and a contract was drawn between Warner Brothers and 
the Bell System to go into the exploitation and the 
making of talking pictures. It was a very simple 
demonstration of synchronized sound and picture — 


somebody dropping something on a table and making a 
noise so that you could see distinctly that the sound 
and picture were sytjchronlzed, 

I was transferred from the Bell Labs and to the 
Warner organization, virtually as part of the equipment 
that went along. It was a "package deal" so to speak. 
They provided Warners with the original wax-recording 
machine and the microphones and motors to drive the 
camera and the recording machine together, and keep 
them in synchronism. It was all pretty crude by our 
present standards, but nevertheless it worked. A 
Chief Engineer named Mr. Watkins, who also happened 
to be an Englishman, was in charge of the project. 
We were all, as I say, "the package," more or less, 
turned over to Warner Brothers to get this thing going. 

The first efforts at making sjmchroniPied sound 
pictures took place in the old Vitagraph Studios in 
Brookljm. Warner Brothers ovmed those particular 
Studios . Out v;e went to the old Vitagraph Studios and 
Installed the first equipment that was used to try and 
make some kind of a commercial product of synchronized 
picture and sound. 

This was pretty much a shell of a studio and in 
our own rather crude way we tried to acoustically 
treat the place so that we would get some semblance 
of decent recording. We got carpets and felts and 
hung them around these very "live" stage walls to cut 

dovm reverberation and echo and proceeded to make some 
experimental short subjects. 

The recording machine was a wax recording machine, 
typical of the equipment used in the phonograph industry 
by Victor Company and others. The camera was an open 
camera, very noisy, and driven by a motor, instead of by 
a hand crank, through a flexible drive shaft . The 
camera motor was electrically interlocked with the motor 
that drove the recording machine, and in this way, we 
started with the first efforts of recording sound and 

There were a lot of things that made it very dif- 
ficult. First of all, the microphones that we used in 
the Bell Labs had Just recently been invented (by recently 
I mean 1925 or '26). It was called a condenser-micro- 
phone, as differentiated from the old carbon-button 
type microphone. A very sensitive microphone, but by 
the ver/ nature of its construction and electrical pro- 
perties, it had to be connected closely to the first 
amplifier in the recording chain. This first amplifier 
was called a condenser-transmitter-amplifier, a C.T.A, 
It was in a wooden box, quite heavy, with a vacuum 
tube in it that was typical of what you'd find in a 
telephone transmission circuit. It was not developed 
specifically for sound recording. If you touched that 
box, knocked it slightly, or moved it slightly, you'd 
hear a bong out of the vacuum tube. In other words. 


the tube Itself was very microphonic; It couldn't be 
moved. There was no way of moving the microphone and 
Its associated microphone amplifier. This meant that 
when a mlcr&phone was located In a set. It could not 
be movod. In other words, you couldn't follow people 
around with It. So It had to be tied up with ropes, 
in a certain position, and anybody who talked or said 
or did anything had to go to the microphone. The 
actor went to the microphone, not the microphone to 
the actor, as they do it now, 

Dixon: This must have stilted the acting a great deal. 
Groves: Oh, it did. That's why, for a long time, 
you didn't see anything that resembled a stage movement 
in the early Vitaphone shorts. However, to see sound 
and pictures synchronized was a tremendous novelty. Quite 
a number of experimental short subjects were made. 

I think the first actor was Rin Tin Tin, the dog, 
and Lee Duncan, his trainer. I think Lee Duncan was 
under contract to Warners at the time, and he put the 
dog through his paces; gave him commands; and they 
photographed hLm as he performed. V/e had a microphone 
in front of Duncan and heard him talk. This was 
never released--lt was a very crude experimental thing. 

The first short that was actually ever put out in 
the theater was called The Volga Boatman . For it, 
they had a mock-up of the front end, the bow of a boat, 
with some Russians hauling on ropes and singing the 


Volga Boatman's song. They iidn't have to move very 
much — the microphone was right In front of them — they 
just pulled Shd sang, and It came out very well. I 
think It was eventually released. 

This kind of work continued for some time. To 
get Into serious work, we had to do something about the 
camera, so you couldn't hear It grinding. The cameras 
weren't silent, they were noisy. And the microphone 
couldn't be moved. Elevated trains ran pretty close 
to the Vltagraph Studio In Brooklyn — it was never 
Intended to be a sound studio. So it all became a 
pretty. .. .well. It was quite experimental — let's put 
it that way. Hovjever, when they became convinced that 
there was something to this "talkie" business, Warner 
Brothers leased the Manhattan Opera House, on 35th 
Street and 7th Avenue in New York City, and converted «t 
into a movie studio, and this was the start of big 
things . 

They had decided to score some pictures with a 
big orchestra and to make Vitaphone Short Subjects with 
famous talent. Next came the business of equipping the 
Opera House. The stage was extended out over the audi- 
torium; the seats were all taken out; amplifiers and 
recording machines were Installed in the boxes; dressing 
rooms became equipment rooms . And a lot of draperies 
were hung around for acoustic treatment. The only 
place that they could find that v;as at all suitable 


for a monitor room, to listen to the recordings and 
do all the mixing, was a big Masonic Shrine room on 
the sixth floor of the Opera House, In the front of the 
building. They ran microphone lines from the micro- 
phones on the stages, through their amplifiers, up 
through the ventilating system to the Shrine room, 
brought them out through a big metal grill in the wall, 
and mounted the mixer panel right there. This is where 
I spent a lot of my time because I mixed all these first 
programs . 

The first big Job we did was to score Don Juan , 
which had been shot as a silent picture with John 
Barrymore, They used the New York Philharmonic Or- 
chestra to play the score. The score was written by 
Dr. Billy Akst, and was conducted in part by David 
Mendoza. If I had to change the recording set up, I 
had to come down the elevator six floors, run down to 
the stage, and run back up to the sixth floor. Every 
night we had to remove all this equipment from the 
Shrine Room for meetings — everything had to be taken 
out , 

One other big event that took place in this period 
was the development of a loud-speaker with power enough 
to fill a theater. Loud-speakers had all been of the 
small type. The Western Electric loud-speakers 
available at that time looked like double cones and 


were called cone loud-speakers . But they had a very 
limited amount of power, like a home-radio listening 
device. In the Bell Labs they had designed large, ex- 
ponential horns, and units to drive these horns that 
would provide enough power to fill a theater-size audi- 
torium. So out of the electrical system of recording, 
the system of synchronizing, the powerful loud-speakers 
and the more powerful amplifiers to drive all this 
equipment came the theater system, to play the recordings 
to the audience. 

A few interesting things happened there in shooting 
the short subjects. First of all, it was necessary to 
silence the camera, so the camera was put in to a big 
soundproof booth. The cameras were very noisy because 
they hadn't been designed to run silently. In order 
to get coverage on a particular scene, one camera 
would shoot a long shot, and another would shoot a 
medium shot. Maybe you'd have three or four cameras, 
usually three, in these big booths located so that there 
was coverage on the scene. They would shoot as long as 
a full reel would take, actually, so it was about a 
ten-minute sequence each time, because there was no 
possible way of cutting the sound at that time; they 
could cut the picture, but the sound had to be a 
continuous record. There was no such thing as dubbing 
sound or editing sound at all. So for a long, long 
time (for several years, as a matter of fact) any 


time they shot anything, it had to be a full reel- 
length of continuous shooting, because they had to 
record a ten-minute record. 

There was one other very interesting thing at this 
time. The standard speed on phonograph records was 
seventy-eight rpm. The Vitaphone record was designed 
to run at thirty-three and one third which is the 
standard speed for LP's today. The thirty-three and 
one third speed was primarily chosen to get ten minutes 
of running time on a reasonable size record. It was a 
sixteen-inch record, as a matter of fact, and it was 
designed to run thirty-three and one third rpm. In- 
stead of running from the outside in, it ran from the 
Inside out. Now there is a good reason for that. On 
the inside of a record, the peripheral speed of the 
grooves is slower than it is on the outside. You have 
the same number of revolutions per minute, but in the 
time of one revolution, you Just go a short distance 
Inside and you go a large distance on the outside. 
Now the first phonograph records had an abrasive material 
in them to wear the needle point down to the shape of 
the groove. In ten minutes running time, the needle 
got too much wear, so that it became a little bit 
overworn on the outside grooves: on the inside, where 
the speed was slow, the needle point was sharpest and 
it would track the high frequencies better; and as the 
needle got worn and wouldn't track the high frequencies 


so well, the speed was higher, so the modulations 
were stretched out and it was easier for the needle 
to track. Consequently, you got a better response 
across the record. If you had done it the reverse 
and started with the fresh needle on the outside, 
by the time the needle got down to the inside of that 
ten-minute record, you'd have very poor quality. So 
that's why they reversed it to the Inside out. It 
is quite interesting, I think, that the established 
speed of thirty-three and one third rpm, for a phono- 
graph record has stayed and is standard now for all 
LP recordings. 

Dixon; Had they added more than one mike to the set 
at this time? 

Groves: No, another technique was evolved at this time. 
And that was multiple microphone pickup on an orchestra. 
As a matter of fact, we had a test recording between 
ourselves and the Victor Company on the recording of 
an overture, the Tannhauser overture and Mignon . The 
Victor engineers suspended one microphone in the middle 
of the orchestra and maintained they could get a cleaner 
recording than we could. We did v/hat is practically 
standard practice nowadays in phonograph recording: we 
placed a microphone over each section of the orchestra, 
microphones on the violins, woodwinds, brass, per- 
cussion all the various sections, and we went so far 
as to put isolating flats or baffles between each 


section so that we got each section properly balanced 
on each microphone, and then blended the six micro- 
phones together. We succeeded In making superior 
recordings, I think this was quite an Innovation at 
that time. And, as I say, this Is standard practice 
now In phonograph recording. A microphone for almost 
every Instrument Is now used In some cases . I think 
It Is now overdone to a large extent. As you know, 
the original Vltaphone program was put on In New York, 
let's see the exact date, I want to quote this ex- 
actly for you. August 6, 1926, Is when they put on 
the first show with the recorded score by the New York 
Philharmonic Orchestra for Don Juan and short subjects 
of such people as Efrem Zlmballst, Harold Baur, and 
Giovanni Martlnelll doing his famous arias from Pag - 
llaccl and A Ida . Anna Case was also on the program. 
Will Hays, who was the head of the Motion Picture 
Producers Association at the time, made an introductory 
speech to the audience for this Vltaphone Program. 

I'll never forget, at least one line, when he said, 
"The art of the theater is ephemeral; It lasts but for 
the moment. But now, with the Vltaphone and the 
recording of the performances of these great artists they 
can be preserved for posterity." That was quite a 
famous speech. I think it's still preserved in the 
archives someplace. 

That was the start, and it was a great success. 


After that we recorded a lot of famous artiste. In- 
cluding Al Jolson, who came to New York and recorded 
a song in blackface. We recorded musical scores for 
a number of other pictures Including a Barrymore show 
called. When a Man Loves , and The Better 'Ole , and quite 
a few pictures which had been shot silent. 

Another picture we scored was called Old San Fran - 
cisco . It was a story of the San Francisco earthquake. 
After the picture had been scored, it was decided to 
make some picture cuts and to add the sound effects 
of the earthquake which couldn't be done while the big 
symphony orchestra was playing. Here was the first 
attempt at re-recording. We took the original re- 
cording and, by taking two or three pressings of that 
particular part of the score and playing down to a 
certain part of one and picking up a certain part of 
another, we made a music cut to conform to the picture 
cut, and at the same time piped in the sound effects 
of the earthquake. Synthetic sound effects were used — 
we didn't have the real sounds of earthquakes, but at 
least we had the sound effects to simulate it. I 
think that was probably the first attempt at dubbing and 
re -re cording. 

While working in the Opera House, there were a few 
things to contend with. As I remember, they started to 
build a new subway line, and they were blasting under- 
neath Manhattan, which frequently caused the needle to 


Jump off the grooves. 

Another thing that was developed at that time, was a 
playback reproducer. The grooves were engraved in a 
round wax disc about an Inch thick that was later electro- 
plated. (This is standard practice now.) The electro- 
plated surface is stripped from the wax base to provide 
a reverse copy, known as a metal stamp which is used 
to stamp out final phonograph pressing or disc records. 
It became very desirable to play back the soft wax 
disc recording to see if everything was satisfactory 
before it went to the pressing plant to be plated. 
If a normal phorcgraph reproducing needle was used, it 
would cut into the soft wax and destroy the modulated 
grooves. \le developed a very lightweight playback 
equipment that could play back a soft disc without 
damaging it. This again, was a tremendous innovation. 

These initial programs were exhibited, more were 
made, and more theaters were equipped. With regard to 
equipping theaters, Warner Brothers had an exclusive 
license with Western Electric Company to manufacture 
and equip theaters all over the world to present Vita- 
phone. After these initial programs, and particularly 
after the showing of The Jazz Singer , which came a 
little later [October, 192?], the demand for theater 
systems became so great that Warner Brothers couldn't 
handle it financially, and they had to revert part of 
their agreement back to the VJestem Electric Company 


to manufacture, equip, and service the theaters. You 
see it meant a tremendous engineering organization .to 
Install theaters all over the world and to maintain 
a service organization. It was completely out of the 
realm of a motion picture company to do this, and they 
finally reverted all this theater equipment business 
back to Western Electric Company. 

It is common knowledge now that the first shows 
were a tremendous success, but still the other Holly- 
wood producers were not completely convinced that 
talking pictures were here to stay — they thought they 
were a novelty. Now V/arner Brothers, in 1926 and '27 
had made a picture called The Jazz Singer , shot silent 
with Al Jolson. As a result of the tremendous success 
of the musical scores and the short subjects that they 
had already made, they decided to insert singing se- 
quences — for some reason, they never thought of talking 
sequences, in the Jazz Singer , Everything they 
had done to date was a vaudeville act, an opera singer, 
a famous musician, an excerpt from opera, a recorded 
orchestral score, and, although people sang, I don't 
remember that they talked particularly; they were always 
singing. It seems to me now that nobody ever thought of 
talking, speaking lines. I came to Hollywood from New 
York to record Jolson in The Jazz Singer . They had 
already shot the picture and decided to make singing ex- 
cerpts. The boy who played the part of Jolson as a 


child had to sing a number In a cafe v/here his father 
objected to his singing. Jolson, as a young man, sang 
in Coffee Dan's restaurant, and Cantor Rosenblatt sang 
in the Synagogue, and Jolson saw hLm and wished he was 
a great cantor, and later Jolson sang the famous songs 
that were associated with him. It was only planned 
that he should sing. 

In one sequence, he came into the set to sit down 
and play for his mother, and purely ad lib. He said, 
"Mother, you ain't heard nothin • yet!" 

A famous line. It was so prophetic of the v/hole 
business . 

"Vly gosh, he even talked!" 

It seemed to be a tremendous surprise, somehow or 
other. Of course, it was just fantastic when Jolson 
talked! It was done completely ad lib, without re- 
hearsal. Everybody held their breath. It Just took 
everybody by storm that he Just came out with spoken 
words. From then on the Warners started to put talking 
sequences in pictures, and a lot of early pictures 
like Glorious Betsy , and The Lion and the Mouse , with 
Lionel Barrymore — a lot of these old shows were made 
that way. 

Finally, Mr. Warner said, "Let's make an all 
talking picture," and this was The Lights of New York 
[July, 1928]. That was the first 100^ talkie. They 
talked all the way through it. It caused a tremendous 


sensation. The industry said, "This is it. We all 
have to go to sound." And gradually all the studios 
converted to one form or another of recording. 
Dixon: Did the engineers that you had worked with then 
go out to the other studios, or did they build their 
own staff? 

Groves: No, concurrent with the Western Electric 
development of recording equipment, other developments 
going on, an engineer named Earl Sponable had developed 
a system of recording that didn't involve phonograph 
records at all. It was a system of recording on film 
with a flashing light, called the aeolight system. 
This was the method used by the first Fox Movietone 
Nev;sreels. The Fox Case corporation developed this 
particular system of recording. They had to join up 
with the Western Electric Company in order to use their 
theater reproducing systems. Westinghouse, General 
Electric, and later RCA, were all working on systems 
of recording. They finally came out with a galvino- 
meter-type recording on film. 

The Western Electric Company was developing, almost 
simultaneously v/ith the disc recording, a system of 
recording on film using a light valve. A light valve 
consists of two very fine wires stretched and sep- 
arated by a very small space. These wires, or metal 
ribbons, are mounted between two magnetic pole pieces. 


When you pass current through them, they will vibrate. 
A light shining through them, as a result of the 
vibration of these ribbons, varies in intensity. When 
that varying light is focused on a piece of photographic 
emulsion, the exposure results in a sound track of 
variable density. This is the Western Electric system 
of variable density recording. 

The RCA system records a photographic sound track, 
not by varying the intensity of the light, but by 
varying the amount of area on a piece of film that is 
covered by a light of constant intensity. This gives a 
variable area soundtrack. When any of these photograph 
sound tracks travel past a fixed light which is shining 
on to a photoelectric cell, the resultant varying light 
intensity generates an electrical current with equi- 
valent variations. The light can be made to vary in 
intensity, either by a variable density or variable 
area sound track. 

Various companies were working on these different 
processes of film recording, while the disc recording 
system was still in use. Here at Warner Brothers, we 
persevered with the disc system of recording for quite 
a few years until it became a terribly complicated 
operation to edit the sound records to match the film. 
During the course of shooting, many types of productions 
from small talking sequences to completely talking 
pictures, varying camera angles and varying shots 


became more and more necessary. You just couldn't 
shoot ten minutes of film In one continuous sequence. 
It was necessary to move from one set to another and 
move around, so It became essential to have some way 
of editing the sound track the way the picture was 
edited. The first attempt at doing this was very 
cumbersome. Bear In mind, we v/ere still cutting 
phonograph discs, slxteen-lnch records. The first 
attempt at trying to edit from one record to another was 
here In Holljrwood at the old Sunset Studios.. V/e had 
four turntables, all mechanically coupled together. 
On one turntable was a counting record, which counted 
once every revolution for ten minutes. This was used 
as a timing device which determined the moment at which 
the other records were started and stopped to attained 
synchronization with the appropriate picture sequence. 
These records were started and stopped by hand. Syn- 
chronism was only approximately correct, and the film 
would have to be re-edlted and adjusted to the final 
record to obtain accurate syric again. As time went on, 
and shooting got more and more complex, we got to the 
problem of combining fifty or a hundred records In a 
ten-minute reel, and this became a major problem. We 
finally had to design automatic machinery that would 
start and stop the records, and we had a large number 
of turntables that were started and stopped automa- 
tically on different pre-set cues of so many feet and 


frames from the start of a particular reel. It was 
like a telephone dialing system. A system of relays 
and selector sxi/itches was used that would release the 
turntables and they would start to spin on preset cues. 
If there were more records to be dubbed than available 
turntables, a crew of men would stand there ^^fith the 
next records in a rack, select the next record in 
sequence, take the old one off, and reset the footage 
counter so that each turntable operated at the right 
time. It required considerable skill, but it was doing 
a Job the hard way. Eventually, we had to do what 
everybody else finally did — record the sound on film. 
The sound editing could then be done with a pair of 
scissors. Just as the picture film was handled. 

I think I'll backtrack a little bit here. I 
talked about The Lights of New York being the first 
all-talkie that v;as made, and I think it might be well 
to specify a date. It opened in New York, jyiy 6, 1928, 
and Film Daily predicted, "It will clean up as the 
first 100^ all talkie." It did. 

So that was the beginning of the end of silent 
pictures, and, as I say, everybody converted to 
talking. The big problems then, and 1*11 repeat a 
little bit here, were the problems of editing sound to 
match picture and getting more flexibility with the 
cameras and with the microphone. Up to this time, 
every1:hing had been very static. Cameras had to be in 


big soundproof booths; the microphone couldn't be 
moved; people had to walk to the microphone, or the 
microphone had to be hidden v;here people would be 
located. For conversation like ours, for instance, 
sitting at a desk, there would be a microphone maybe 
hidden in the old standard telephone, or hidden behind 
a flower pot, or behind any piece of furniture. In 
order not to see microphones in the set, we used to 
hand them down from ropes, and then the prop men or 
the set dressers had to get paper, or v;hatever material 
was used to cover the walls and cover the microphones 
with it, so that they blended into the background. 
All kinds of devices for masking out and hiding micro- 
phones were used. 

To get av/ay from all these handicaps, the first 
and most Lmportant thing to do v/as to get the camera 
out of the booth, so that it could be moved. A big 
house could not be pushed around the set with a camera 
in it. It was a terrible thing for cameramen even to 
sit in one of these things for any length of time 
because it v/as soundproof and airtight; there was no 
ventilation in them. They shot through a double glass 
partition-window. It had to be double glass for sound 
proofing reasons, and this deteriorated the photo- 
graphy quite a bit. You know, several plates of glass 

destroy the definition of the picture. So one of the 
first things that was attempted was to take the camera 


out of the booth and silence It. The first thing that 
was tried was the obvious thing, put a box around the 
camera. A lot of experimental work was done, building 
"camera blimps," as they were called. Soundproof blimps 
were made out of all kinds of materials, and they worked 
reasonably well, but the controls to the camera were 
hard to get to. It was hard to locate the finder so 
you could see through It, and loading the camera was a 
difficult Job because all this box arrangement had to 
be unfastened. It's a strange thing, but the techni- 
color cameras are still this way; they are heavy and 
cumbersome and have blimps on them. But the general 
camera that is used for shooting now is the Mitchell 
BNC, That is a silent camera. The camera housing, the 
camera itself, which contains the film-moving mechanisms, 
is a soundproof device. It is made out of heavy solid 
castings treated on the inside with sound deadening ma- 
terial. The film-moving mechanism in the camera has 
been so precision built and maintained that it runs 
silently and smoothly. Of course, when this happened, 
the camera could be put on a dolly and pushed around, 
and you got camera movement . 

The next thing was, of course, to get equivalent 
microphone movement. During the course of these years, 
improved vacuum tubes were made that weren't so micro- 
phonic. The first thing that happened was that instead 
of having the microphone attached to a square box with 


a microphonic tube in it, the amplifier that is asso- 
ciated with the microphone was built into a cylindrical 
tube type of housing. They could be clamped to the end 
of a pole, suspended from one rope, and pushed around 
with the pole. The next move was to get rid of the 
rope and put the microphone on the end of a boom. 
This required a lot of engineering, a lot of exper- 
imental work, to get a boom that was silent so that 
you didn't hear the boom rumble as it was moved in 
and out. Now, v/hen you had a microphone with an 
amplifier attached to it, this was too much weight on 
the end of a boom. No matter how good the boom was, 
the minute you got it stretched out ten or fifteen 
feet, the whole thing would droop down and it would Just 
swing around; it was too flexible for that weight. 
The microphone itself had to be reduced in weight. And 
the microphone had to be designed so that it didn't 
have to have an amplifier right at the microphone. So 
now they developed so-called dynamic microphones, 
ribbon microphones, all of reasonable weight, that 
could be operated remote from their amplifiers. The 
amplifier could be down at the base of the boom. With 
a cord running out to the microphone, and nothing but 
the microphone hanging on to the end of the boom, a 
lightweight device on a lightv;elght boom which can move 
around . 

This succeeded in relieving the actor from any re- 


strict ion Imposed by the mechanics of the system. If 
anything, I think the actor Is now restricted more by 
the camera than he Is by the microphone, because he 
has to get Into spots in playing a scene where the 
cameraman has pre-set lights for him. If he wants 
to look well photographed, he can't just walk in and 
out of the lights willy-nilly. The cameraman has to 
know where an actor Is going to be in order to main- 
tain focus. As far as the microphone is concerned, 
the main objective is to obtain the correct sound pers- 
pective to match the picture. — close when its a close- 
up and far away when for long shots. You must be sure 
the microphone doesn't get in the picture. There is 
a little more to it than that, but that is the basic 

I would like to go back to one little thought that 
occurs to me about individuals. I made a lot of shows 
with Al Jolson; he was a fabulous entertainer. I 
don't think he was as great an entertainer on the 
screen as he was in person. He v;as at his best when 
he v;as talking to a group of people, when he wasn't 
even trying to be an entertainer. This was when he 
was most fascinating. One very wonderful thing that 
I saw happen, occurred when I was the mixer on the show. 
Sonny Boy . During the course of the picture, they had 
a hospital scene, v;here some supposedly sick children 
were part of the scene. One little boy had a dl- 


seased hip bone — he really was crippled. I saw Jolson 
take this little boy's mother to one side and ask her 
what was the matter with him. 

When she told him, he said, "Well you call my 
doctor (and he mentioned the doctor's name) and have 
anything you want done for this little boy at my ex- 
pense . " 

Now this was all done on the sidelines, no publicity, 
no hurrah about it. It was Just because he liked the 
little fellow and his mother was a lady. I thought 
it was a very very fine thing to do. I Just happened 
to be sitting there and he was standing close enough 
when he said It so that I overheard it. So, you see, 
he was a very wonderful fellow in many respects. Tre- 
mendous personality, and tremendous entertainer, but 
not a particularly good actor. When he started to 
act and play a part, he never ceased to be Jolson. 
You were always aware of the fact that he was Al 
Jolson on the screen. When he was performing and 
singing in his famous manner, he was Just fabulous. 
If he had a group standing around, he told a story or 
related an anecdote of some kind, and everybody Just 
stood there; they were Just spellbound by him. 

Another interesting character to work with was 
John Barryraore. He was a real character, and a man 
who couldn't remember lines at all. It was fantastic. 



Many, many shows, I've seen him play with the words 
written on a blackboard outside of the camera. He 
probably was the first talking picture actor to use 
a teleprompter system. That's what it amounted to. 
He had to have the lines written for him. His brother 
Lionel was Just the reverse; he never faltered In 
reading lines. 

Conrad Nagel gained the reputation of being the 
"voice of Vltaphone" because he had quite a resonant 
and good talking voice. I don't think in those early 
days that he was particularly great because he read 
lines so well, but because he sounded good. He Just 
had a voice that seemed to record well with the system 
as it existed in those days. A lot of actors failed 
because they couldn't read lines or because they didn't 
sound the way they looked. John Gilbert was the fa- 
mous example — he had a high tenor voice. Douglas 
Fairbanks was a very virile man, but he had a kind of 
a high tenor voice, and he didn't sound robust the way 
he looked. So talkies hurt a lot of people. Con- 
versely it helped a lot. And, of course, it has been 
a tremendous means of preserving great performances 
which otherwise would have been lost forever. When you 
consider the great number of conversions in the re- 
cording process from one type of energy to another that 
take place from the thought of a spoken word, to its 
reproduction out of a loud speaker, it is quite fan- 


tastlc that fidelity can be maintained. You take a 
thought, just as we are sitting here, and thinking of 
what to say, and saying it. The thought is somehow 
stimulated in your brain; electrical impulses are 
generated in the brain, and stimulate your vocal cords 
into action. Simultaneously, you expel air from your 
lungs, and you've got mechanical vibration of your 
vocal cords, resonant cavities formed by moving the 
muscles of your face, produce sounds of a certain char- 
acter. With the mechanical vibration of vocal cords 
and as air is expelled from the mouth, air waves are 
generated. This is mechanical movement of air parti- 
cles moving back and forth like waves In water. These 
air vibrations move along through space until they 
encounter some recording device such as a microphone. 
When they impinge upon the microphone the varying air 
pressure moves a mechanical diaphragm in it. Here you 
have acoustical energy, or movement of air, transformed 
into mechanical vibration of a diaphragm. That dia- 
phragm is suspended in a magnetic field. The fact 
that it moves in that magnetic field generates a minute 
varying electrical current. So here now we have a 
conversion from mechanical energy to electrical energy. 
That electrical energy is then amplified many, many 
times, a million times, to give it enough power to 
operate some kind of recording device. 


Consider a disc recording system. The amplified 
electrical vibrations cause the recording stylus to 
move from side to side, thus engraving sound modulations 
In the virgin wax disc. The wax disc has now become 
a memory system as storage devise containing all the 
Information generated In the artist's brain. When you 
play It back, a needle travels through that groove. It 
Is forced to move mechanically by the little wiggles In 
the groove. While It Is vibrating mechanically. It Is 
vibrating In a magnetic field again, which in turn 
makes it generate minute electrical currents, which are 
amplified and fed to a loud-speaker. They go ithrough a 
coil in the loud-speaker and create a varying magnetic 
field, which makes the diaphragm of the loud-speaker 
move. Now we are back to mechanical vibration again — 
mechanical vibration of the diaphragm which pushes the 
air in contact with it generating air waves which return 
to your ear, move your eardrum, giving you the sensation 
of sound. 

When we realize that during these transformations 
of energy to the final storage device, whether it is a 
tape recorder, disc recorder or optical recorder, and 
that through the reconversion back to the reproduction 
of audible sound we can preserve a high degree of 
fidelity, we must agree that a fantastic piece of 
engineering has been accomplished. It's really a 
miracle that it can be done. 


Of course, there are several kinds of storage 
devices. The optical recorder, where the light has to 
shine on a photo cell to create electrical vibrations. 
Or a tape recorder, where the electrical energy generated 
In a microphone magnetizes the Iron oxide coating on a 
piece of film or tape and Information Is sfoj-ed there 
as a varying magnetic field. 

In the early days of motion pictures, everything 
was lit with arc lights. This was necessary, because 
the films were slow, and powerful Incandescent lights 
were not yet Invented. The arc lights existed, and 
were readily available. The man who used to be In 
charge of the Electrical Department of Warner Brothers, 
Frank Murphy, was basically responsible for having the 
General Electric Company and Westlnghouse Company 
develop Incandescent lights of sufficient power to light 
a motion picture set and Warner Brothers were first to 
use them. Incandescent lighting became a necessity 
on sound recording stages because the noise emitted by 
arc lights could not be tolerated. The use of in- 
candescent lights accelerated the development of fast 
panchromatic film to replace the slower color blind 

At the same tLme, the Eastman Kodak Company im- 
proved the films that we used. The speed of the films 
was increased and finer grain film was developed so 
that you could get a bigger picture on the screen. 


Finer print stocks, finer negative stocks, and, of 
course, eventually color. The first color talking 
picture was On With the Show , May 28, 1928. The 
first sound film in color. After that came a lot of 
color shows, like the Gold Diggers of Broadway , The 
Show of Shows, and all the Gold Digger series. Mu- 
sicals started to come out in color. In shooting the 
first color films, the films were so slow that in order 
to get any depth of focus at all, they had to pour 
tremendous amount of light into the set. I've seen 
actors stand there with their hair smoking. If they 
had a little grease on their hair, it actually would 
start to smoke from the heat. It was Just terrible — 
almost impossible to stand. There again, the film 
companies had to increase the speed of the films in 
order to cut down the intensity of light on the set; so 
the people could work; so the make-up would stay as 
make-up. Then, of course, with improved films, im- 
proved negative stock and print stock, comes the pre- 
sentation of larger pictures on the screen. Now you 
can preserve definition and put on a spectacular show. 
The first real advancement there was the Invention 
of the cinemascope picture. That was developed by 20th 
Century-Pox with the introduction of the anamorphic 
lens which squeezes down the picture in a horizontal 
direction. The vertical dimension of the picture Is 
not affected, but in order to get a wide angle of 


view and still keep It In the thirty-five mm. strip 
of film, the lens compresses the picture In a hori- 
zontal direction. Now In projecting It In the theater, 
a lens Is used that does the reverse and restores It to 
Its original dimension. And that's what Cinemascope Is. 
The lens Is called an anamorphlc lens; It anamorphizes 
the picture, squeezes It down, and then a special lens 
goes on the projection machine which restores It back, 
and that's how you get the wide aspect ratio of a 
Cinemascope picture. 

In a further effort to Lmprove picture definition 
and go to bigger pictures, they are now shooting pic- 
tures on seventy mm. films Instead of thirty-five. 
This is the famous Todd AO system. The larger negative 
and print area produces Improved quality, of course, 
and definition in the projected picture. This permits 
the projection of larger pictures. 

The standard picture has an aspect ratio of three 
to four or one point thirty-three to one. In a Cine- 
mascope type picture, by virtue of the squeezing down in 
photography and widening out in projection, the aspect 
ratio is changed to about two to one. In other words, more 
width for the same height is obtained. Because of this 
big wide expansive view, it is necessary to avoid the 
illusion that the sound is all coming out of a hole in 
the center of the picture. Stereophonic sound is the 
answer to this problem — the sound is spread across the 



whole screen. In the standard Cinemascope type picture, 
there are three loud-speakers at the screen — one In the 
center and one on either side — so that the sound comes 
out of three speakers simultaneously. And a fourth 
sound track Is sometimes used to put sound around the 
house. Just to enhance the sound. This Is for stan- 
dard Cinemascope pictures. Now, when you go into a shot 
with seventy mm. film, and you go into large picture 
sizes like Ben Hur or Westslde Story , o r My Fair Lady, 
these big shows require huge screens and take more 
than three speakers to cover them. Six-track stereo- 
phonic sound is used — five sound tracks, operating 
five loud-speakers at the screen and one for surrounds. 
The ultimate now in sound is six-track stereophonic. 
With a stereophonic sound system, either three- 
track or four-track for Cinemascope, or six-track for 
the seventy mm. productions, the sound track is all 
magnetic. The picture is printed and developed by 
Technicolor, or v;hoever makes the color print . Then 
thin stripes of magnetic oxide are striped down 
either side of the picture, some outside the sprocket 
holes, and some between the sprocket holes and the pic- 
ture. And the sound is then recorded onto those mag- 
netic stripes. Optical tracks are not used for that 
type of sound reproduction. And also the magnetic 
system gives you a more hi-fi sound than the optical 
does. It has extended-frequency range and the back- 


ground noise is very low. You take a piece of optical 
track, and as the film goes through the projection 
machine, it gets a certain amount of scratches on it, 
it's impossible to avoid. Since an optical track is 
part clear-film and part exposed film, when it gets 
scratched, it comes out in the form of noise. Now 
on a piece of magnetic track, this problem doesn't 
exist. You can scratch magnetic tape and you don't 
hear noise like you do from a phonograph record or 
from a piece of optical film. It stays quiet, which 
is a great virtue as far as theatrical reproduction is 
concerned, because it has to be constantly running 
through the projection machine and through apertures 
which scratch the surface of the film, but it doesn't 
reproduce as noise in a mrgnetic system. 
Dixon: I was going to ask if they have to demagnetize 
the equipment that's close to a magnetic recording. 
Groves: Yes, anything that has to do with a magnetic 
recording system, for instance the film splicers and 
the film gates, everything has to be carefully de- 

Dixon: Is the sound in outdoor scenes dubbed on later? 
Groves: Oh no, not necessarily. For outdoor recording, 
we have the same equipment that we have indoors, except 
it's mounted either on a location truck or in a por- 
table suitcase unit or something that can be moved 


around. The recording machine Is Identical, It may 
vary in size and weight, depending on the Job you are 
going to do, but basically ifs the same type of re- 
cording apparatus. It all depends what you are recording 
and where you are recording. For instance, if we are 
shooting a Western, a TV show, and a lot of it has to 
be shot outside on the back lot, on our V/estern streets, 
we cannot afford to stop shooting to wait for airplanes 
to go by. And you can't stop all the traffic going 
down the freeway, so a lot of material has background 
noises in it that are false to the scene. If they 
belong in the scene, we don't care particularly, as 
long as they don't detract from the scene. But if you 
take a period picture or a cowboy picture or something 
of that nature, you don't want the sound of airplanes 
going through. When that happens, we have to resort to 
post -synchronizing, or lip syncing, or dubbing, or 
whatever phrase is used. To do that, we get a print of 
the sound track and usually a print of the picture 
that goes with It. We break it down into small 
lengths so the actor only has to do a phrase at a time, 
actually, because it becomes very difficult to get 
perfect sync. If you have too much to do. So we break 
it dovm into short lengths and make a continuous loop 
of the picture and the corresponding sound. We put it 
in the projection machine and it Just goes around and 


around and around, keeps repeating. There Is a cue 
track, and the actor can hear v;hat he did and see what 
he did. He proceeds from there to try and talk the 
lines in perfect sync and make a new sound track for 
that particular scene. Once you've got that, you have 
to put a certain amount of sounds in back of it. You 
always have to put in something, unless somebody is 
sitting in an absolutely dead quiet room, otherwise 
they become shadows moving around. You have to put 
the footsteps back in and whatever would naturally be 
heard in the scene. This is quite a job, putting all 
those sound effects back in. We have a v/hole crew 
that does that kind of work, and they have become very 
proficient at it. 

With regard to musical numbers, the reverse is done. 
In the olden days, we used to record everything as it 
was shot, standard recording it's called. Nowadays, 
it's very very seldom that a musical number is re- 
corded at the time it's shot. There are several good 
reasons for this. Primarily, most singers don't look 
particularly photogenic when they are singing — some 
do, but some don't. And the next reason is, it's not 
economical to do it. It may take a day or two, or a 
week or two, to photograph a big musical number that 
can be recorded, say, in a day on the scoring stage. 
Now, if you held the orchestra during all the shooting 


of the different camera angles and had to record every 
camera angle, this would become a very expensive pro- 
position. Also, It would mean that the sound track 
would be shot In pieces, and for every change of camera 
angle, you'd get a different pickup of the voice re- 
lative to the orchestra. It would be almost Impossible 
to wind up \vith It sounding like a continuous per- 
formance. There would be something different with each 
different setup because, by the very nature of the 
shooting of the thing, you'd have to move the orchestra. 
In one position, you may be shooting across this way 
down a big set, and the next time you shoot over here, 
and they all have to move around so the conductor can 
see, and so the location of the orchestra on the set 
becomes different . And you have to move them out of 
the way because of the lights and the camera, so it 
becomes a terribly complicated and expensive thing to 
do. Whereas, if you go on a scoring stage, you con- 
centrate purely on getting a good performance sound- 
wise. Then that recording is played back on the set 
and they mouth to it. Of course, they have to not 
only mouth, but they sing at the same time. You have 
got to see some throat action as though the people are 
actually singing, but they don't have to perform as 

Another thing, for a singer, it would be very 
difficult to get a first-class performance every time 


they change the camera angle. They'd Just wear out, 
they just couldn't do it, you see, for a number which 
was complicated to shoot. So there are an awful lot 
of factors that come Into the business of pre-scoring 
musical numbers and playing them back on the set. 
Also, you can do all the photographic effects you want; 
you can light any way you want; there are no microphones 
around; and nothing to bother anybody. A lot of TV 
shows are done this way. Some of them are done live, 
simple setups, but the big spectaculars are pre- 
s cored ahead of time, and played back. They have to 
for economic reasons, particularly on the air — you can't 
take a chance on a bad performance or a breakdown or 
a blowup of some kind. 

Dixon: What impact did TV have on the movie business? 
Were there any new developments in sound as a result of 

Groves: I wouldn't say there were any particular in- 
novations except for means of communication. For 
instance, if you notice on the television stage set, 
everybody wears headphones . The cameraman can hear 
directions from the director, and everybody is in com- 
munication with everybody else. They're not on a 
motion picture set. They have to do it on a tele- 
vision show because the show is continuous, you see, 
and you can't say, "V/ell, you missed. Come back and 
do It again." They don't have time to rehearse a 


complicated show to the point where everybody knows 
exactly what to do without being told. If they could 
shoot It in sections like a motion picture. It would 
be much simpler. 

Dixon: I wanted to ask you, too, about sound In car- 
toons . 

Groves: Well, that's a special Job all Its own. The 
dialogue and the music are recorded for a cartoon 
before the cartoon Is drawn. The animators work to 
the sound track. We get the characters over on our 
scoring stage, like Mel Blanc, the famous Bugs Bunny. 
The whole thing is plotted out In script form, and he 
knows exactly what he*s going to say, and what he's 
going to do. We record that dialogue, then the ani- 
mators animate to fit the syllables, and to fit the 

The music Is also recorded before the cartoon is 
drawn and it's all recorded to specific tempi. This 
Is done by taking what we call a click record, which 
establishes a tempo. It's a record that goes click, 
click, click, click like a metronome. We have a 
library of these click records, where the click is so 
many frames per beat, and the cartoonist who is res- 
ponsible for the drawing or the story plot or for the 
making of the cartoon, will specify with the musical 
director that a certain sequence will be made at a 


certain tempo such as ten frames per beat. The con- 
ductor and the band hear the clicks through headphones, 
and this Is the tempo at which they play. Another 
piece may go twice that fast, for a chase or something. 
It varies all through the cartoon; it's not neces- 
sarily the same tempo all the way through. But every 
piece that is recorded is to a specific tempo. Now 
the cartoonist knows that if it's a piece of music for 
Bugs Bunny to walk to and he takes a step every certain 
number of frames, the music will be exactly on his 
footsteps because he knows that the tempo is so many 
frames per beat. So it's all pre-plotted, pre-planned, 
and pre-recorded. 

Than, when the cartoon is all drawn, it comes over 
to the Sound Department and a special group does all 
the funny sound effect, again to the same tempo records. 
Footsteps, or chomping on his carrot, or whatever he 
does, is all specified, so many frames per beat, and to 
make those sound effects, they listen to it and make all 
the sounds in tempo; they are all edited in the proper 
places with the music and the dialogue, and they all fit 

Dixon: I had no idea; I thought that they made the 
cartoon and then the music, the voice and everything. 
Groves: No, it's the other way. They have to have the 
dialogue ahead of time, actually, so the animator can 
determine the number of syllables for a mouth closing. 

otherwise he'd have to keep doing It himself, looking 
In a mirror, I suppose, to find out how It worked. He 
couldn't determine how fast somebody was doing It, 
you know, because the dialogue Is not done to tempo. 
When Bugs Bunny talks, he Is Just talking. Of course. 
It's recorded at a standard speed; then, to make It 
sound like Bugs Bunny thejr speed It up a little bit. 
So all this Is done ahead of time. The animators Just 
listen to It and draw to It. 

Dixon: I would also like to know If you had any part 
In the union difficulties that came along. 
Groves: Yes, we have all had part In those things. 
But only to the point of waiting until It was settled 
actually. I've only had one disagreeable Incident. 
At one time this whole place was picketed. It got 
very ylolent, and you took your life In your hands 
to come through the gate. 

Oh, I'm a member of the Soundmens Union, and have 
been ever since it was organized. The reason I keep 
up my membership is because in case I want to go back 
into production some day, I could operate equipment; 
otherwise, I couldn't. But as a department head and 
supervisor, I carry what they call now an "Inactive" 
card — I have no voting rights and don't get embroiled 
in union meetings. I wouldn't be allowed to attend one 
because I'm part of management. 


The only really disagreeable Incident that I can 
recall right now during the big strike had to do with 
one of the boys who was out on strike. He invited me 
to come over and talk to the boys at the union meeting, 
have a get-together. He wanted to settle it. You 
know, "Get them all together, and you come over and 
tell them what is happening." And I did. They 
weren't abusive to me, particularly. One fellow, who 
was a very good friend of mine, got a little hot under 
the collar, and was a little abusive verbally, but they 
tamed him down. But I was never subjected to any par- 
ticular violence. I did what I was doing in good 
faith. They realized that I couldn't walk out of this 
place as a head of a department. I had to stay here 
and try to keep the plant ready to operate again. 
Actually, it was Just a matter of sitting back and 
waiting for the negotiators to come to some agreement 
on these things. • 

I wasn't actually in charge of the department when 
the big strike was in effect. I was assistant to the 
man who was in charge. I don't know that he did very 
much either, except Just sit and wait until the labor 
relations men got together and settled it, you know. 
There is nothing you can do. 

Dixon: It's never been really settled has it? 
Groves: Oh, yes. There are very good relationships 

between all the unions and the producers right now. 


Dixon: What I mean is that there was never any real 
settlement that said, "This union has Jurisdiction." 
Groves: Oh, sure. We have too many unions in this 
plant as a result of that kind of thing. In the 
Sound Department I have — let's see, there is Local 695* 
the Sound Union that all the production personnel have 
to belong to. Some of the 695 soundmen can maintain 
sound equipment up to a point, but when it comes to 
installing equipment, then we have to go to the IBEW, 
the electricians local. It's a fine dividing line, where 
one starts and the other stops, but we usually manage to 
keep it pretty clean. Then we have the Sound Editors, 
another local; the Projectionists, another outfit; and the 
Office Workers Guild, that's another outfit. So there 
are quite a few unions involved. But as of now everything 
is very peaceful and happy. There is very little dis- 
agreement . 

Some phases of union operation, that I prefer not to 
discuss, actually make operation a little difficult. 
The main thing is, I'll state it right here and now, 
the seniority clause. A man who has been in the union 
a long time has preference over a younger man. This 
makes it very difficult to train young men. If a young 
man comes out of school and has gone through the motion 
picture course in a university, he may be very capable; 
he may be a great recording engineer, a great transmission 
engineer, a very clever all-around man, but all I can do 


Is hire him on the lowest rung of the ladder, because 
he is the last man Into the union. He stays in Qroup 
Three, and as long as there are Group Twos and Group 
Ones available, I've got to hire them. And the first 
man to be laid off is the Group Three man. This is 
terribly unjust, I think, and tends to stagnate the 
whole business. There is no real apprenticeship system 
that you can put into effect. I have had men in this 
department who, when we are busy, have worked five 
years learning how we do things. When things get slow, 
as they'll do every once in awhile, if they are not in 
the highest group in seniority, they have to be laid 
off, although they may be ten times as good as the men 
I have to keep. And they may be out of work three or 
four months before I can bring them back. I may never 
be able to bring them back if they don't find em- 
ployment for all the Group Ones and Group Twos. Years 
of training have gone for nought. This is bad. 

I get a lot of letters from boys in school in- 
quiring about the possibility of employment in our 
Sound Department, and two things impress me about 
them. Generally, the thing that Impresses me, out of 
high school and sometimes out of college, is the 
atrocious English, the poor spelling, and the complete 
inability to express themselves on papers. It's 
absolutely ghastly . 

They write and ask me, "How do you get into the 


motion picture business?" The boy may be very good at 
what he wants to do. "I've operated a projection 
machine in the school auditorium; I've studied 
physics and I've studied electricity, and I want to do 
this and that." 

In some cases you'll find boys who have gone to 
college and taken a course in Electrical Engineering, 
and even there, you'll find that penmanship and Eng- 
lish and spelling are certainly not what you would 
expect from a college graduate. I usually advise them, 
particularly high school kids, "First of all, if you 
have any ambition at all of becoming an electrical 
engineer or a scientist, or whatever you think is 
involved in recording for motion pictures or any other 
kind of recording, go to college first. Don't quit 
high school. Go to college and complete your edu- 
cation and then come back and talk to me." Occasionally, 
you'll find one that is really bright s; then I'll ask 
him to come in here, and I talk to him and tell him 
what the prospects are. 

I'll say, "If you like it, fine, but to be honest 
with you, here is what it is . It's a spasmodic em- 
ployment, because the demand goes up and down. It's 
not steady. We are reasonably secure in this studio, 
more so than in others, because we have a fair tele- 
vision load to help smooth out the ups and downs of 
theatrical production. 


Fortunately, the television load is reasonably 
smooth. You have a certain amount of hours of air time 
to meet and they have to be done, and you have to pre- 
pare for them, and get them ready before you go on the 
air, so it makes a good leveling influence on the pro- 
duction load. But even so, it has its ups and dovms. 
Part of the season we'll have maybe seventeen or eigh- 
teen units shooting on the stages; another time there 
will be two or three. It goes up and down to that 
extent , " 

The poor boy who is a beginner is in and out. He 
just doesn't have any security at all. It's a very sad 
state of affiars, and there is nothing you can do about 
it. It distresses me terribly when I think about it. 

The next thing that distresses me in many respects 
is the American system of education, particularly, at 
the elementary school levels. I think there is much 
too much choice of subject matter. I never got this 
in England, I had to do what I was told, and I had a 
certain amount of homework that I had to do every night, 
and it was not of my choosing. I think it's much too 
soft, much too much individual choice. They call it 
Progressive Education. I guess this is in the nature 
of Progressive Education to think it develops the 
child's initiative to choose for himself. But you 
can't train an animal of any kind, whether it's got 
four legs or two, to go on the right path without a 


certain amount of direction and training. 

You cannot say of a puppy dog, "I'm not going to 
whip this puppy If he does something In the house he 
should be doing outside, because he will grow up and 
learn better." 

He never will. He's got to be taught; he's got 
to be told. It's human nature to go the easy way. I 
think these youngsters have got to be driven and not 
told to go their own free way. I think that's what 
Is wrong with them. 

Now the question comes up as to whether I had any 
specific part in any specific piece of development 
work. As far as my own particular contribution at that 
time Is concerned, I was what Is known now as a music 
mixer. It was my responsibility In those days to pick 
up the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with a number of 
microphones, which was the start of multiple niorophone 
pick-up of orchestras, versus one microphone and let the 
sound come as it may. Because I knew music, I did all 
this with a music score in front of me. During re- 
hearsals I balanced the orchestra to the best of my 
ability on these various microphones, indicated how 
the settings on these controls should be on the score, 
and when they were ready for a take, I was ready for a 
take and proceeded to mix it according to what my ear 
told me was correct. I also had to obsei?ve certain 
engineering principles and the control of levels in 


order not to over-cut the recording mechanism. This 
was my first training as a music mixer which later 
developed into the recording of all the big musicals 
that Warner Brothers made. So my contribution actually 
was not as an Inventor, per se , but as a combination 
musician-engineer to get the best sound on a record 
that I was capable of doing. I had no competition 
from anybody because nobody else had the combination 
of training that I had at the time. It was a wonderful 
experience for me because I got to know a lot of great 
artists very well. I remember quite distinctly 
having a very interesting conversation with Henry 
Hadley, who wrote the score for a picture originally 
called When^Man Loves , with John Barrymore and Dolores 
Costello. It had quite a bit of sea music in it, and 
I said, "Now how do you get all these notes down on 
music to make it sound like this? What makes a com- 
poser's mind tick?" 

He explained to me, "Well, I have musical figures 
in the low Instruments that sound like the motion of 
waves, wave motion in the orchestra. Superimposed on 
that is the theme or themes of the people involved in 
the scene." 

This technique started out very early with Hadley 
and those people who wrote the first scores, and it 
still goes on today. It's the same technique that 
Wagner had when he wrote his great operas — they write 


a theme associated with an Individual In the play. 
If you take a Wagnerian score and eliminate the voice 
and play the orchestral score, you can. If you know 
the opera at all, visualize the action and the people 
on stage by his use of the theme associated with the 
people and the treatment of those themes. Now the same 
technique goes on today. A composer looks at the picture 
and decides on the themes for each individual character. 
It may be a Jolly theme, or a sad theme, or the same 
theme treated in different ways, and a combination of 
those themes . 

This was first drawn to my attention by Hadley. 
He not only played the themes for the people in the 
scene, but the background in which they were playing, 
which was the sea. And it all becomes a very clear 
thing when it's explained. It*s very clever and takes 
a great deal of musical talent to do. This conver- 
sation with Hadley has stayed with me ever since. 

This, I repeat again was, and has been my main 
contribution. Not so much in the invention of equip- 
ment — we have possibly invented methods as we went 
along, but equipment development and manufacture has 
been, in the main, the province of the equipment 
supplier. The Western Electric Company, which developed 
the first recording system, developed the microphone 
and the loud-speaker out of telephone research. As a 
result of Lee De Forest's invention of the vacuum tube. 


they developed amplifiers that would drive these 
loudspeakers with sufficient power to be heard In an 
auditorium. So all we did, actually, was to take these 
components and apply them to a new phase of work. A 
new Industry was born. During all the ensuing years. 
Improvements have been made and new requirements have 
had to be satisfied as a result of demands made by 
men like myself, but motion picture producing com- 
panies are not research organizations except on a very 
small scale. 

In some cases very Important advances have been 
made, however, as a result of studio engineering. Now, 
let's take a look at a few of these things. One of 
the big objections to the original system of recording 
sound on a record along with the picture, was that you 
couldn't edit the record. It was a very difficult, 
complicated process with thirty or forty records 
starting and stopping on cue and so on. So the demand, 
was made, not by me, but by the motion picture In- 
dustry, of which I was one small part, for a method of 
recording that could be edited like the picture. So 
the Bell Laboratories and RCA and Westlnghouse, came 
up with a method of recording sound photographically 
on flLm. The optical sound track could then be cut 
Identically with the picture. The sound editor Just 
took a pair of scissors and cut the picture film and 
the sound film to match and spliced the ends together 


to give a full reel. It simplified the whole process 

Even when we had film recording, the level of the 
background noise was objectionably high, due to the 
grain in the film. So a big demand went up for some 
way of reducing background noise on film. The Bell 
Laboratories and RCA developed what they call a noise 
reduction system. So that if the modulation is low 
on the film, the part of the film that's not being 
scanned at all is masked out by shutters or some such 
device eo that you don't hear film hiss from light 
passing through an unmodulated or an unexposed piece 
of film. Actually, the ground noise that you hear is 
emulsion grain passing through a light piece of film. 
If the film is black (very highly exposed), and no 
light passes through, you don't hear any noise. If 
it's Just lightly exposed and it's a gray or light 
gray piece of film, you hear the noise of the film 
grains, because enough light goes through it to ac- 
tuate the photo cell in back. So they devised a 
system of noise reduction which masks out this unex- 
posed part of the film, and was a tremendous advancement. 
They finally came up with a sound track that was 
reasonably quiet. This completely killed any thought 
of using disc recording. You cannot do this with a 
disc; you can't mask- it out. So, we finally got 
quiet film recording. 


Another extremely Important step was the estab- 
lishment of standards, so that a piece of film made In 
the United States could be played on any projection 
machine In the world. This was a tremendously Impor- 
tant step. The thing had to be standardized — film 
speed, the position of the sound track — so that every- 
where you went you knew when It was scanned It was being 
scanned in the proper position. The width of the sound 
track, the size of the picture, and all these factors 
had to be standardized and established as interna- 
tional standards. This work was finally accomplished by 
the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. 
You can now go from here to Tokyo or Hong Kong or London 
or Paris, or any place in the world with a piece of 
film made here and it plays the same wherever you go. 
This was a tremendous piece of work. 

• So when it comes down to talking about Individual 
contributions, they are pretty hard to put your finger 
on. It's the result of a really combined community 
effort, that all these things have been done. There are 
one or two things that have taken place in recent years 
that can be tied down specifically to one organization 
or another. For instance, the presentation of Cinema- 
scope pictures is the result of the efforts of the Fox 
Studio organization. If it hadn't been for the engineers 
at Fox, Earl Sponat>le in New York, and the backing from 


the Board of Directors of the Fox organization, we may 
not have had Cinemascope. 

Here at Warner Brothers there are a lot of things 
that can be tied down to the Vfarner organization. The 
requirement which was presented to the General Electric 
Company for incandescent lights was developed at V7arner 
Brothers. We v/ere the first in the talkie business, and 
arc lamps are very noisy, due to the frying noise of the 
burning carbons and the rotating of the motors that 
feed the carbons. The lamp housings themselves would get 
cool between takes and expand and crack and pop and make 
noises as they warmed up during a take. That still 
goes on with incandescent lights too, but the primary 
noise of the arc itself, focused on a person with a 
microphone in front of him^ had to be eliminated. So the 
demand was made on the General Electric Company for 
incandescent light that would provide enough light to 
photograph on the type of film we had; and the demand 
was made on the Eastman Kodak Company to provide a 
panchromatic type film that would photograph a suitable 
image with Incandescent light. Previously it had all 
been done with a pure v/hite arc light. 

Now, Incandescent light has a lot of red and 
yellow in It, so it had to be a film that was res- 
ponsive in the red end of the spectram. They came out 
with panchromatic films, and, as time went on, the 
demand for faster films was made and the film manu- 


In any event, this was the first moviola that was made. 
And this was made for the picture The Lights of New 
York . It was an all-talking picture, and a lot of 
records had to be combined to make a complete motion 

As you go along there are various things that 
come up — small ornaments on a Christmas tree, so to 
speak, that make the Job a little easier, a little 
more professional. But the big basic things are not 
done in the studios, they are done by the equipment 
suppliers. This is the way it's been all along. 

For Instance, another example: magnetic recording, 
the most tremendous advancement as far as sound is con- 
cerned. In it we now have a medium of virtually un- 
limited frequency range. At least it will go from ten 
or twenty cycles to fifteen or twenty thousand, which is 
more than adequate for ear response. And all the volume 
range that your ear could require, with no background 

Now this was not a studio development. First of 
all, in Germany they had developed magnetic recording 
to the point where it was very commercial. 
Dixon: Didn't they develop the wire recording first? 
Groves: Yes. And then some brilliant German scientist 
came along with the application of a magnetic oxide on 
a film base. Since then it's been in use as a motion 
picture and general sound recording medium, and now 


has been further developed as an Information storage 
device for computers and space craft, even to the pre- 
servation of a television picture on a video tape 
recording. This medium has been Improved and Improved 
and Improved. You Just don't stand still. But this Is 
done by the tape manufacturing companies. 

I have been concerned with getting the sound on 
to whatever medium was available and getting It off 
Into the theater to present to the public all the various 
sounds that we record In the form of a high-quality 
dramatic show. A scene that Is recorded on the stage has 
to be well done; It has to be recorded well. 

Then we get composers of all types to compose the 
music with the highest quality and high quality means 
a lot of things. It has to have the proper balance of 
the orchestra; It has to have the proper dynamics of 
the orchestra; if you have a vocalist. It has to be 
properly balanced between the vocalist and the orches- 
tra; and the whole performance has to satisfy a lot 
of people. And then comes the problem of combining It 
Into a show. The baclcground music has to be properly 
modulated with the speech, so that It enhances the 
scene and doesn't detract from It. And when music has 
to take over for dramatic Impact, It has to be done 
judiciously. All of this takes a lot of training, a 
lot of Judgement, and the ability to satisfy a lot of 
people. It has been my observation, generally speaking. 


that when we have a show in our dubbing room where all 
these things are combined, each individual has a ten- 
dency to listen to his own contribution. The musician 
will sit and complain (unless he is an exception) that 
he doesn't hear enough music. The next man, say, the 
director-producer, will say, "I can't hear the dialogue 
for the music." It becomes a pretty delicate balance. 
Dixon: Warner Brothers was first in sound. Now when 
other studios came along and wanted to get into sound, 
did you have trained people that went to them from 

Groves: No, they did something like this: we had a 
small nucleus of trained people from radio (there was 
no television then) and from the telephone company. 
The telephone company personnel v;ere men who could 
operate and maintain the equipment; the radio personnel 
were men who could pick up the sound and see that it 
was recorded correctly. The studios had to train their 
own personnel as they got into this thing. A certain 
number of engineers were available to the other com- 
panies from the Western Electric Company. When we 
went into the business we didn't take every capable 
engineer out of Bell Labs, or out of Western Electric 
Company, or out of the General Electric Company. All 
these organizations had groups of men who were involved 
in equipment development and manufacture. All we had 
here were a few key men, and we drew from radio and 
from the telephone company and wherever we could find 


likely personnel to train ourselves. 

They formed the nucleus for training of the per- 
sonnel when they could draw them from whatever sources 
were available. I think that's generally the way 
everybody started out — by taking engineers from the 
equipment supply, either Western Electric Company or 

We have men from all different types of beginnings 
here. Most of our older men either worked in radio 
stations or were radio hams in their younger days. And 
some of them came in here and worked from the ground up. 

We demand improvements in equipment, in methods, 
in operational procedures, in organization — all kinds 
of channels where improvements can take place to keep 
the quality of the product the highest. And this is 
where, in an executive capacity, you feel you are con- 
tributing to the company. To be successful at that, 
you have got to have good personnel that can satisfy 
your desires in this regard. 

^ Here at Warners we have about 15O men and women, 
and a large group of these boys are on production. 
I say "about" because the number goes up and down, 
depending upon the load we have, the nyimber of pro- 
ductions going. 

There are four men that constitute a production 
crew. There's a mixer, who is responsible for the 


operation of the crew and for the quality of sound 
that Is recorded . 

Then comes the recorder, who operates the recording 
machine and Is usually the maintenance engineer. He 
has to keep the equipment running. The most expensive 
thing on a motion picture company is time, and equipment 
failure cannot be tolerated. So we try, and we succeed 
pretty well, in operating without holdups. Very rarely 
can they mark down even a ten-minute holdup to the 
Sound Department. This is because we have good main- 
tenance of our equipment; it runs and runs and runs. 

The next man who has a responsible Job is the 
microphone boom operator. He has to have the micro- 
phone in the right position at the right time. He's 
got to be very skillfull and highly trained. A lot of 
our boom operators have been around here ten, fifteen, 
twenty years . Not only does he have to know how to 
get the microphone in the right position, but also how 
to move it to face the person talking at all times. 
He has to memorize the dialogue in every scene. If 
he moves from one position to another in a set to cover 
people not directly opposite each other, all moves of 
the microphone have to be made so that they don't 
cast shadows on the scenery or on the people. So he 
has to rehearse and cooperate with the electrical crew 
and the cameramen and the lighting crew to make sure 


that whenever he has to move a microphone It's not 
only not seen in the camera but there are no shadows 
of those microphones seen on the walls or on any piece 
of furniture or scenery. This Is quite a trick. So 
he has a very responsible Job, because the sound Is 
only as good as the proper location of the microphone. 

The fourth member of the crew Is the cableman. 
He's the boy who pulls the equipment around, hooks up 
the cables, connects the camera, and generally sees 
that the equipment is In the right place at the right 
time. We have as many of these crews operating as we 
have shooting companies. 

Now, we have to have a certain number of men who 
keep the plant running. And these are our transmission 
maintenance engineers. 

Apart from production, we get to the re -re cording 
process, where all of the sound tracks are put together. 
On a big show, there may be three or four mixers working 
all at one time on one big elaborate panel. They have to 
be very skilled. They may have to combine twenty, thirty, 
or forty sound tracks to get a scene to sound the way it 
looks and to give the audience the emotional reaction that 
they expect from the scene. Putting all this stuff to- 
gether so that the sounds are all inp?oper perspective 
of each other; the music score getting its full value 
without intruding, giving you the impact when you need 


it; the speeches all being Intelligible and clear; the 
dramatic readings preserved; and the production com- 
pleted vflth a high degree of perfection, is a very 
responsible Job, 

The maintenance of the equipment that does this is 
a big responsibility and there is an awful lot of it. 
We must have well over a million dollars worth of 
equipment in the building that does this Job. It's 
quite complicated. 

We manufacture our own magnetic film. We get used 
prints back from the theater exchanges, send them out 
and have the emulsion cleaned off, and we apply the 
magnetic oxide to the clear film base and make a mag- 
netic film which is used for making copies of sound 
tracks for editing purposes. 

We have been talking about sound recording, sound 
departments, and what makes these things operate more 
or less. Maybe we should talk a little bit about some 
of the artistic aspects of this job. One of the most 
important of these is the business of recording music. 
As I mentioned previously, the first recorded scores 
for motion pictures were done by Warner Brothers for 
the picture Don Juan; Bruce Burns* father's The Better 
»01e ; the John Barrymore picture. When a_ Man Loves; 
Old San Francisco ; and a few of these famous old pic- 
tures which were shot as silent pictures and had re- 
corded scores made for them. They were recorded in 


the Manhattan Opera House in New York, using the New 
York Philharmonic Orchestra, a fine orchestra. Now, 
all those recordings were done as plain orchestral 
scores, without any thought of their being background 
music or anything but the type of music that the 
orchestra was used to playing in the pit for a silent 
picture. When the movie started to talk, the business 
of scoring became a different proposition. The music 
had to go behind the dialogue; it had to be incidental 
music, largely to enhance the value of the scene. 

We wound up with two types of music scoring. One 
is called pre-scoring and the other is called post- 
scoring. Pre-scoring, as we know it now, is the 
recording of musical numbers — songs, dances, and the 
like — where the sound is recorded and then the picture 
is shot at a later date. We do this for several good 
reasons. One is that it's much easier on the artist 
to go on a recording stage and give one good performance 
of a song or a dance with a good orchestral accompa- 
niment, free from any considerations of maKe-up, costume, 
lights, cameras, or anything else, rather than have to 
go on the shooting stage and do a good performance for 
every setup of the camera. This is a terrible ordeal, 
for a singer particularly. You can't shoot all camera 
angles at once and obtain optimum photography. Many 
big musical numbers couldn't possibly be done all at 


once. They are too Involved, and it would mean that a 
singer would have to give a good performance every 
time they appeared before a camera. Also, by the very 
virtue of the setups on the shooting stages — the 
lights, cameras, and so on — the orchestra has to be in 
some off-stage position, relative to the singer. The 
orchestra would have to move every time all the lights 
and the cameras were moved, so you would get a little 
different sound for every recording that you made. 
Finally, when all the camera film is edited and put 
together, and the sound track is edited and put 
together, it doesn't necessarily turn out to be a 
smooth continuous Job as though it was shot at one 
time. So, by prereco3?ding it and getting a good 
recording, you solve all these difficulties. And next, 
very importantly, it may take two or three days or a 
week or more to shoot a big musical number, and it takes 
maybe a half a day to record it . You save an awful lot 
of recording time with the orchestra, you see. So 
it's economically advantageous. 

When the music is recoixied ahead of time, a record 
is made of the recording and is played back to the 
artist on the set when they are photographing, and 
the artist mouths, or dances, in absolute synchronism 
with the playback of the record. 

The other type of scoring is post-scoring, and 
this is the music that is recorded for the picture 


after the picture is completely shot and edited and 
all put together. This Is the dramatic scoring of 
the picture. Now the way this is handled is that the 
picture is photographed, edited, and finally arrives 
at the final edited stage, where it's approved by the 
studio head, Mr. Warner, and the producer. A composer 
is assigned to write the music score before the pic- 
ture is finished or even before they have started to 
shoot in some cases. The composer reviews the whole 
picture as it stands at that time. If he has been 
associated with the picture prior to viewing it at this 
time, he probably has in his mind certain basic themes 
that he will use . 

The final decision as to where the music goes in 
the picture, is decided upon when they view the com- 
pleted picture. This is generally done along with the 
producer of the picture and the head of the Music De- 
partment. There has to be a main title written for it, 
which presents the main theme of the score, usually. 
And then there is the play itself, to decide what 
dramatic scenes would be more dramatic if they had a 
musical scoring; what scenes are better left alone, 
because they play so powerfully that anything else 
would intrude; and it requires a very careful choice, 
not only of material but of where to start and stop. 

The composer can have quite a few aids in writing 
the score. First of all, a member of the Music 


Department will be assigned to him who will provide 
him with a complete list of every picture cut, every 
major piece of action, almost every dramatic look 
that occurs in the picture, measured from the start 
of a reel to the point where it occurs in the reel, 
and indicated in time, in seconds, and also in feet 
and frames from the start. The composer can takeihis 
home v/ith him. He looks at Reel One, and he looks at 
the cue sheet on Reel One. He's seen the picture, but 
he can't remember every look in every cut and exactly 
where it came. He knows that in Reel One certain 
things happen, but from this cue sheet he can see 
specifically Just what happened, where, and when. 

In the scoring of dramatic sequences in which no 
rhythmical pattern has been set and in which it is 
desired to accurately synchronize musical effects with 
pictorial action, the playback tempo record can still 
be used to good effect although the method of estab- 
lishing the necessary tempo is somewhat more complicated. 
It may be of interest to digress for a moment to des- 
cribe in detail how this type of scoring is done. This 
can best be done by following the mechanics of scoring 

a typical example. 


A cue sheet similar to Figure I is prepared. We 

shall use as the example a sequence from the Warner 
Bros, production, Cheyenne , as scored and composed by 

Fiaurc.5 X-VST (^"Tt- cc»^tdllr>e<i in pock.C-^ aI" batk eC bccK. 


Mr. Max Stelner. Each picture sequence designated for 
scoring Is carefully measured by a member of the music 
department. As indicated at the top left of Figure I, 
the music we are considering starts at 39 feet and 
three frames from the start of the reel. From this 
point on, each cut, each significant piece of action, 
any significant sounds and the beginning and end of 
each line of dialogue is listed in sequence and given 
a cue number. In Figure I we have l^orty-nine cues to 
the end of the sequence, which runs a total length of 
171 feet. To the right of the cue sheet are three 
columns. Column I carries the time In seconds from the 
start of the sequence to each cue. Colamn III carries 
the corresponding distance in feet and frames from the 
start of the sequence to each cue. Column II we shall 
explain in a moment. The cue sheet (less the infor- 
mation in Column II ) is then dellverec: to the composer. 
From the information contained therein, he decides on 
the general fonn of his composition and the approxLmate 
tempo in which it will be played. In this particular 
sample, Mr. Stelner decided that twelve frame tempo 
would be suitable — that is, a tempo in which a beat 
occurs every twelve frames. To assist the composer In 
establishing tempo, he is supplied with a complete set 
of tempo records carrying a range of tempos from fif- 
teen to twenty-five frames per beat at one-fourth 
frame intervals. When the composer has decided upon 


the required tempo, the exact beat or fraction of a 
beat at which each of the cues will occur is listed 
in Column II (Figure I). To save the tedious compu- 
tations necessary to determine the values in Column II, 
a set of charts has been compiled which lists the 
distance in feet and frames from a start mark of any 
number of beats from tempi of 1 , 7-1/8, 7-1/^, 7-3/8, 
1-1/2, 7-5/8, 7-3/^, 7-7/8, 8, 8-1/8— up to 25 frames 
per beat. A sample of the 12 frame tempo conversion 
chart is shown in Figure II. As the next step in the 
scoring operation, the information tabulated in Column 
II, Figure I, is transferred to sheets of manuscript 
as shown in Figure III. On these sheets each namber 
printed under the staff lines corresponds to a beat 
and each beat or fraction of a beat that corresponds 
to a cue is marked and numbered with the corresponding 
cue number appearing on the cue sheet. With the cue 
sheet and the cued manuscript sheets, the composer can 
now proceed with the actual composition. He subdivides 
his manuscript sheets into bars, allowing any number 
of beats per bar to suit his composition and so de- 
signing the music that any musical effects he may wish 
to use to accentuate the act3.on and synchronize with 
it, will fall on the beats previously indicated. Figure 
IV shows the completed score. It will be observed that 
not all the cues on the cue sheet are necessarily incor- 
porated in the score. In our example, the first cue to 


be scored Is No. 5, which occurs on the third beat 
of the second bar, or the seventh beat from the start. 
The next cue Is No . 6 which occurs on the first beat 
of the fourth bar or the twelfth beat from the start. 

And so on, throughout the score, cue No. l6 on 
beat fifty-nine, cue eighteen on beat sixty-four, etc. 
It will be noticed that by Judicial changing of beats 
per bar and by the use of varying rhythmic patterns in 
the accompanying instruments, Mr. Steiner has eklllfully 
avoided any metronomic character from appearing in the 
final sound of the composition. 

In the preparation of the playback tick tempo 
record, it is customary to allow a maximum of eight 
additional ticks ahead of the music start. These ticks 
are in the prescribed tempo and serve as a warning to 
the conductor and orchestra of the exact moment of the 
first down beat. It is also necessary that a certain 
amount of leader or blank record grooves be placed 
ahead of the warning ticks to permit the projection, 
recording and playback equipment to come up to speed 
before the first note of music is played. The usual 
length of this leader is fifteen feet. In our par- 
ticular example, therefore, we find that the threading 
start mark on the picture occurs at eighteen feet and 
three frames from the start of the reel, computed as 

Distance of music start 

from start of reel = 39 ft . 3 frames 


Length of leader on 

tick record = 15 feet 

Length of 8 beats 

at 12 frame tempo » 6 feet 

Total distance from 
start of tick re- 
cord to first note = 21 feet 21 ft . frames 

Therefore, distance 
start of tick re- 
cord from start of 

reel or distance = I8 f t . 3 frames 

of threading start 
maric from start of 

A record is kept of the distance in feet and frames 
from the start of the reel, of the threading start mark 
of each musical sequence in the reel, and a corres- 
ponding start mark is made on the film in the recording 
machine at the time the sequences are recorded. This 
infoiroation allows the film editor to accurately as- 
semble the music recording into reels for dubbing pur- 

In the recording of music scored in this manner, 
the tempi ticks are played back to the conductor and 
the rhythmic instrumentalists in the orchestra through 
headphones. It can be seen that with such an arrange- 
ment, synchronism between picture and music is ab- 
solutely assured at all times. Long and tedious 
rehearsals are no longer necessary for purposea of 
timing and the accuracy with which musical and pictorial 


effects can be synchronized greatly enhances the value 
of the musical score in pointing up dramatic moments , 

For the scoring of sequences of obvious fixed 
tempo such as marching, dancing, cartoons, etc., a 
stock library of tempo records Is maintained. For 
sequences requiring a definite number of ticks, or 
ticks of varying tempo, special tick records must be 
made. These records are usually first made on film and 
are later re-recorded to disc records for ease and 
speed of handling on the scoring stage. 

At the Warner Bros. Studios we are now equipped 
with an electronic tick machine which can produce 
tempo clicks which can be varied in l/8th frame steps. 

You see, before all these devices were developed, 
the conductor would stand and look at the picture being 
projected on the screen. At a certain cue, he would 
start to play music, and he might be a little bit 
fast or a little bit slow, but we hop eci somehow or 
other, that when the shot came up, he'd be there in 
time to synchronize the music and action. And it was 
very lucky if he came out absolutely accurate. 

But all of this took a lot of rehearsal time. He 
would rehearse it once, maybe, with a stop watch or 
something, and find he was a couple of seconds too slow, 
The next time he'd go along and be a second and a half 
too fast, and he had to keep trying until he hit it on 
the nose. With the tempo aids that we now have, he 


can come out right on the frame for a synchronized 

You might ask, "If they play a piece of music to 
an established tick, tick, tick, doesn't it sound like 
it was made to a metronome and sound mechanical?" Now 
a clever composer, a man like Max Steiner, for instance, 
will disguise the metronomic character of his music by 
varying the number of beats per bar. He can take a 
piece of music and play a number of bars in 3/^ time, 
three beats to the bar. Then he may insert a 5/^ bar, 
then go to ^/^, so that in the middle of it, he has 
extended a note by one beat, and it completely dis- 
guises the fact that, actually, he is conducting to a 
metronome. He just varies the number of beats per bar. 
It's very clever the way they do it. 

Finally, the conductor arrives at a completed 
score. We call the orchestra and they come in for a 
recording session. He looks at the film while he 
conducts the orchestra. We don't start from the begin- 
ning of the reel and run a whole reel through while he 
does all the music. If the first music occurs at fifty 
feet in the reel or a hundred and fifty feet in the 
reel, the reel is run down to that point, and that's 
where it starts. In order for him to start accurately 
on a given cue, there is usually a certain amount of 
film ahead of his cue presented on the screen, with 
flash marks on the screen in the tempo in which he 
is going to play, you see. So he stands there poised^ 

the film Is going through, the orchestra Is all silent, 
ready for the downbeat, and he will see flashes on the 
screen: one, two, three, downbeat you see, so his 
tempo is established, is his cue on the downbeat, and 
it's absolutely accurate. 

So there are all these cueing devices that accel- 
erate the speed with which the Job is done, improve the 
accuracy with which it is done, cut down the amount of 
rehearsal time and the problem of the musicians and the 
conductor becoming exhausted. When they score for eight 
or nine hours a day, they become stale and dull if they 
have to do a thing over too many times. It stands to 
reason. So, eventually, we wind up with a lot of pieces 
of music, that may run a minute, a minute and a half, 
five minutes, six minutes, depending on the length of 
the sequence to be scored. These recordings are all 
then taken and compiled by a music editor into a con- 
tinuous roll, with spacing film in between. Then we 
take it to the re-recording room, where that roll of 
music film is lined up from the start mark, along with 
the picture film, and all the sound effects and the 
speech tracks. They all roll together in synchronism. 
Then, at the proper place, at fifty or one-hundred and 
fifty feet, or whatever it's supposed to be, the music 
comes in correctly, right on the proper cue. So it's 
no problem to get the music to start and stop correctly. 


We have all that solved. 

The business of recording background music has to be 
specially handled to a certain extent. First of all, the 
music at no time should detract from the picture. If it 
does that, it's a bad score. It can detract for one of 
two reasons. One, it interferes with the scene, it 
doesn't embellish the scene; it interferes with the 
dialogue and doesn't improve the scene that is being 
played. Or, two, it can be recorded wrong, generally 
by giving the instruments too much presence, so that 
the sound of the orchestra competes with the sound on 
the screen. This is something we are very careful 
about. If the background music should sound a little 
bit back-screen so that the voices have better presence, 
they sound more forward when reproduced in the theater, 
than the accompanying background music. This is de- 
termined by microphone placement, by the acoustics of 
the hall in which you record, and by the amount of 
reverberation that you have in the music. All can be 
controlled to keep the music a little bit backstage 
so to speak. In certain cases, if the scene calls for 
it, you want it very forward. For instance, a musical 
montage, where there is no dialogue and the total 
sound impact of the scene relies on music, then the 
music should have good presence. 

In pre-scoring of vocal recordings, we usually try 
to keep the orchestra and the voice, on separate recording 


channels. Not on separate tapes necessarily, but 
recorded on separate tracks on the same piece of tape. 
Now there are two or three good reasons for this. By 
the very fact that the song is pre-scored, you don't 
know how the picture is going to look because it hasn't 
been shot yet. So you don't know whether this person 
singing is going to be in a long shot, in a close-up, 
or in what kind of a shot. If we have the voice laid 
down on a separate track from the orchestra, then we 
can control the balance. Later, in dubbing, the 
balance between the orchestra and the voice is controlled 
and also by the addition of reverberation, you can 
control the acoustic perspective of the voice. Another 
reason why we try to keep the two separated is that, 
quite frequently, when the picture is finished there 
will be a foreign version made, and sometimes we have 
to put in a foreign language voice. If the voice and 
orchestra were not separated, you would have to call 
the orchestra back to make a clean accompanlrment 
minus voice. But when the orchestra is kept clean, 
then you Just get another voice inj you don't have to 
call the musicians back. Separation between voice and 
orchestra is obtained by putting the vocalist in a 
vocal booth, a complete enclosure, on the scoring 
stage. The orchestra is on the stage, the vocalist is 
in an enclosed room with a glass window like a monitor 
booth so he can see the conductor and hear the orchestra 


over the headphones . Conversely, the conductor 
hears the vocalist over headphones, so that they can 
each hear what the other one Is doing. We thus ob- 
tain two separate tracks, the voice and the orchestra, 
acoustically Isolated, separated from each other. So 
we can do whatever we want to with regard to balance, 
quality, acoustics, perspective, and foreign language. 
Dixon: Each of these things has developed through 

Groves: That's right. V/hether we were the first to 
Isolate vocalists, I don't know exactly. It's so long 
ago. I wouldn't be surprised, but what we were. 

I think we were one of the first to apply rever- 
beration Into recording to create a correct Illusion 
In a picture — by putting the sounds through a rever- 
beration chamber. This was done a long, long time ago- 

As a matter of fact, w>e made a picture called 
Viennese Nights which used the first pre-scored 
recording. We pre-scored a symphony and later shot to 
It, photographed it. And also we used reverberation 
for dramatic effect in a naisical recording. 

I have been active in music recording for a good 
many years, and I did all of the recordings, both 
music and production, for many early shows. I told 
you about The Jazz Singer . That's why I came out here 
from New York — to record Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer . 
In later years, I had the privilege of recording the 


music for all the big musicals for which Warner 
Brothers are famous, the Gold Diggers of Broadway , 
Forty - second Street , and all the big musicals that 
Busby Berkeley staged — veiry elaborate, big musical 
shows. I was the music man around here for a long time. 
Did nothing else but. Finally I was told to train some- 
one else, which I did, and came into the office here 
and helped supervise the whole ^Job. 

Now let's see, as far as personalities in the 
music business. I've met a lot of them. We have 
already mentioned Henry Hadley, the first man that I 
recall, a composer in New York. I described how he 
wrote this sea epic. He was quite a talented man. But 
since those days, we have had a number of very famous 
composers around here, and they are all different. Max 
Steiner, who has received many awards all over the 
world for his scores. Franz Waxman, Dmitri Tiomkin, 
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Elmer Bernstein, Henry Man- 
cini, and practically everybody who has been of any 
repute has been here recording scores for our pictures. 

I don't know whether I should draw comparisons 
between these men or not. They are all tremendously 
different in temperament. All very talented, but all 
have their own individual styles. Max Steiner is 
probably the daddy of all these men, I think, when it 
comes to writing a score for a motion picture — he writes 
what people think and not necessarily what they do in a 


picture. He is so clever at this, that he doesn't Just 
score the action or the words, but he scores the 
meaning behind what the people say. He eoores what 
they Intended to say or what thoughts prompted them 
to say things. And he Is so very, very clever. For a 
good many years he has been almost blind, to the point 
that It's a wonder he can see the score of the picture 
at all. The sweetest man that was ever bom, personally, 
but suffering all the time. He walks In on the scoring 
stage and Invariably apologizes to the musicians for 
the terrible music they are going to have to play. 
Then he gets down to work and just makes them play like 
angels, you know. It's amazing how he always does this. 
He always comes In: oh, gosh, he's been working day and 
night on this stuff; it's Just awful, it's the worst 
thing he did; and then he starts in, and he Just pounds 
it out of them. But a wonderful, wonderful man. 

Korngold is another fellow — Viennese, and Incl- 
dently Max Stelner was of Viennese descent, I believe. 
Korngold was a boy genius — he wrote an opera when he 
was twelve years old, I think. A tremendous talent, 
wonderful musician. Great sense of humor. Here's 
another man, again, who was greatly loved by all the 
musicians. The first Job he did here was to score the 
Warner Brothers version of A_ Midsummer Night's Dream . 
Did a beautiful Job of it. Of course, it wasn't all 


Korngold, it was part Mendelssohn, which had to be. 
He did seafaring stories, such as Captain Blood, one 
of the great scores that he did. He scored a lot of 
the romantic, swashbuckling things that Errol Flynn 
was in. He did wonderful work. He Is now gone. Died. 

Franz Waxman is a totally different type of man. 
Very nice fellow, but (if you'll pardon the expression) 
a real long-hair. I'm a little bit surprised that he 
will condescend to write scores for motion pictures, 
but he does, and does them very viell . He wrote the 
score for the Nun's Story , Incidentally, A beautiful 
score; he did a v;onderful Job. And he did Sayonara , 
for which we got an Oscar. So Franz has done a lot of 
beautiful work and he goes into concert work more than 
a lot of these other fellows do. He is not like Max 
Stelner — apologetic for his efforts. He knows it's 
good when he's done it, and he's proud of It all the 

Dmitri TlomV:in is another completely different 
type of man. Tremendous talent. He records usually 
with large orchestras and writes great scores, and gets 
lots of Academy Awards. I'm very fond of Dimi, and he 
is very !?weet to me . He is always inquiring after my 
wife and family. So we get along very well. But he is 
a driver. When he sets up a piece of music, he doesn't 
apologize for what Tlomkln wrote, and he makes the boys 
rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, until they are Just 


perfect. So he comes out with fine results, and that's 
why his scores sound great. 

The next one I have down here Is Henry Manclnl. 
He composed and conducted the score for Days of Wine and 
Roses . Now, Days of Wine and Roses was a television show 
which received some awards and was finally made Into a 
motion picture by Warner Brothers. It's a Lost Weekend 
type of story — the story of a man who Is an alcoholic 
and marries a girl who doesn't know she 1b an alcoholic 
until he persuades her to take a drink and then she be- 
comes one also. He finally doesn't cure himself, but 
rehabilitates himself. And she can't. She becomes more 
of a lost cause then he is. Now this Is a very downbeat 
sounding thing, but It has Its humorous moments because 
Jack Lemmon plays the alcoholic. He does a tremendous 
job; I'm sure It's Academy Award material, and Lee Re- 
mick, who plays his wife, also gives a tremendous per- 
formance. Manclnl wrote the score. Now, what kind of 
a score do you write for that kind of a picture? He did 
a wonderful thing. He doesn't play up either the boy or 
the girl. There is no boy or girl theme. There is no 
father theme, although the father enters into it. 
There is no baby theme, as such, although they have a 
baby who suffers as a result of the alcoholism. He 
wrote a beautiful song called "Days of Wine and Roses." 
It's a beautiful theme. And he plays that theme 


Elmer Bernstein Is going to score a picture for 
us. He has a very Imaginative approach to scoring 
pictures, plus the use of unusual types of orchestra- 
tion. He will use all brass, but you are not conscious 
that It's a brass band. Very peculiar combinations of 
Instruments. And we did a whole war picture here, and 
he never used strings at all, but you never thought It 
was a brass band playing. Very odd combinations. 
Like In that particular case. I haven't heard too many 
of his scores, but he always seems to have quite a 
style, a unique style, and a lot of Imagination. 

So there you have my Impression of a few of these 
various composers. The different styles, the dlf- 
• ferent ways In which they tackle the Job of scoring the 
picture. Max Stelner, who scores the motivation of a 
scene as much as the scene itself. Komgold, who 
glorifies the settings for a scene as much as anything 
else. He could write a beautiful love theme or a 
beautiful piece of dramatic action, but he made you 
conscious of the scenery somehow; it was very clever 
the way he did that. Waxman, who is quite talented, 
but a little Germanic in his treatment; a little bit 
heavy-handed most of the time. Tiomkin, who will 
tackle anything. I think, for a Russian, he has pro- 
bably written some of the best cowboy scores. 
Dixon: Yes, "High Noon" always stands out. 


Groves: That's right. And one thing that all of 
these boys have in mind, of course: they are all com- 
mercial, all looking for money. They all have in mind 
a hit theme song that will eventually go out on records. 
And this is good, not only for the composer, but for 
the picture. You get a thing like High Noon — a lot of 
people would never have seen High Noon if it hadn't 
been for the song, but people heard it and wanted to see 
the picture. So in many cases, a song can give a great 
deal of very good publicity for a picture if it is out 
early. I venture to say that "Seventy-six Trombones" 
has done a lot for Music Man . 

Dixon: And "Buttons and Bows" for the Bob Hope picture. 
Groves: That*s right. If they get to be known, people 
enjoy them more vjhen they go to see the movie, because 
they are familiar with it, and they can whistle along 
with the person on the screen. I think that goes for 
almost anything. An opera is enjoyable the second time 
through, when you know what it is all about . 

And as far as directors are concerned, I don't 
know whether we should comment on directors at all. Some 
of them are pretty tough to get along with. I can men- 
tion two or three anyway. One famous director who was 
around here for a long time was Mike Curtiz. He made 
many pictures here. A tremendous vitality, and the 
worst English you ever heard. He never learned, in all 


the years he was here, to speak Intelligible English. 

He always had a thick accent and a complete mlxup of 

words all the time. I think a lot of this was put on 

for effect. But a very talented man; made a lot of 

great pictures, and, as I say, a tremendous worker. He 

recently died of cancer, 

Dixon: Was he easy to work with? 

Groves: No, he was pretty tough to work with until 

recent years. He mellowed as he got older. He really 

did. When he was younger, he was a tiger, because he 

was such a dynamo. A man of tremendous vitality. 

We mentioned George Cukor. George is a wonderful 
fellow; great talent; very artistic man; but as far as 
the Sound Department is concerned, we get good sound in 
spite of him. He does not help, and I think this is 
inexcusable because we are not trying to get good sound 
to get Academy Awards, or to have golden stars painted 
on our doors, or to get more money; we are trying to 
get good sound to make a good contribution to the show, 
and all we are concerned with is that the great American 
public, when they pay their admission to the theater, 
can understand what is being said, primarily. We want 
to turn out a picture of good intelligibility. If 
people speak lines, they should be understood. Other- 
wise they might as well not speak them. Make a silent 
picture; go back to silent days. So I think it's very 


shortsighted and very childish In many respects for 
a director to make fun, literally, make fun of the 
efforts of the Sound Department to get good sound. I 
still like him anyway. 

George Stevens Is another man of tremendous ego; 
spends great amounts of money on his pictures; will 
take no advice and no criticism. And Is not always 
right. He has made some great successes. One that he 
made here, called Giant , was a great success. An 
extremely difficult man to work with as a result of his 
egotistical self-wlllled insistence upon the way the 
show should go out soundwise. That is the one and only 
picture on which we had worldwide complaints on the 
sound. If not world-wide, at least United States-wide. 
We got complaints from all over the country for one 
reason— excessive volume range. He has scenes with 
people whispering so you couldn't understand them, 
and he said, "I don't want them to understand what they 
are talking about." And in the next moment, there 
would be something that would Just raise you out of 
your seat. He thought this was giving the people a 
dramatic Impact of some kind or other. But it was ex- 
cessive and we got complaints, and we objected to doing 
it this way. But George Stevens was the kir-g and he 
could do no wrong. He is now embarking on The Greatest 
Story Ever Told . I Just hope he doesn't make the same 
mistake. This is a big, big pi»oJect. I don't know 


whether he will or not, but if he wants to make it 
loud, he will. A loud picture is not necessarily a good 
one. He was reasonably sound-conscious in the shooting 
of the picture, but didn't show good judgment in the 
final putting together of it as far as I v/as concerned. 
Soundwise. It was a great picture, and everybody said, 
"Well, this thing made millions." It was one of the 
greatest money-making pictures we've ever made. Maybe 
George Stevens was right and I was wrong. This is 
quite possible, but all I can do is pull out the files 
of complaints. Somebody is wrong, and I don't think it 
is me. 

Now, another man we have here, a very interesting 
fellow, is Morton Da Costa, who has directed two pic- 
tures for us, one was Auntie Mame , and the other was 
Music Man . He is a most wonderful fellow to work with. 
Dearly loved by everybody. Every member of the crew 
would lay down his life for Morton Da Costa, and give 
him anything he wants. The result is he always gets 
the finest work done. VJonderful to work with as far as 
sound is concerned. Very sound-conscious, and Just a 

Music Man was as much fun making as it is to sit 
and look at. I think this is probably one reason why 
the audience enjoys it so. You can't help but sense 
that the people on the screen are having fun. They 
just had a glorious time making it. Mainly on account 


of this man. They Just loved every minute of It. And 
the hours spent on the scoring stage pre-recordlng all 
the numbers were fun. Everybody had a good time, and 
It comes out In the product. You can see It, and, 
although you may not actually realize it, you sense it, 
and the audience senses It; you can see It in the 
audience when they come out. It's not because it's a 
happy show — there have been lots of happy shows made . 
Music Man is a pretty corny show, actually. It's Iowa 
com; it's good corn, it's well-cooked corn, and it's 
well-done. It's Just the atmosphere that pervades the 
whole show, of people having fun. The audience has 
as much fun watching it as the people did making it. 
That's the only way I can analyze it. And Auntie Mame 
was the same way. 

If Morton Da Costa ever directed a dramatic show, 
I don't know what would come out of it because he is 
not a funny man. He is not a comic; he's not partic- 
ularly witty. I've never heard him say anything witty. 
He's Just a heck of a nice fellow, and he is sympathetic 
to everybody's efforts. He understands everybody's 
problems, and he listens with a sympathetic ear. And 
if you are right, even though you disagree with him, 
he'll say so. "You were right, I was wrong--he'll 
admit it. A fine fellow to work with. It's completely 
different than a lot of these other big, great directors 
that are so egotistical, so domineering, they can do no 


wrong. That's my opinion of those characters. 



Acting, motion picture 
Aeollght recording system 
Akst, Dr. Billy 
American Orchestral Society 
Auntie Mame 

Barrymore, John 
Barrymore, Lionel 
Baur, Harold 
Beecham, Sir Thomas 
Beechams Pills 
x/Bell Telephone Laboratories^ Qa^c. 
Ben Hur (film) 
Berkeley, Busby 
Bernstein, Elmer 
The Better ' Ole (film) 
telane, Mel 
Bugs Bunny (cartoon) 
Burns, Bruce 

Cameras, motion 

anamorphic lens 


early shooting techniques 

early types 

Captain Blood (film) 
Cartoons, motion picture 
Case, Anna 
Cheyenne (film) 

City College of New York 
Click records 
Coffee Dan's Restaurant 
Communications engineering 
Costello, Dolores 
Cowley School, England 
l/Cukor, George 
Curtiz, Mike 

\/l)aCosta, Morton 
Days of Wine and Roses (film) 






































"Days of Wine and Roses" (song) 
De Forest, Lee 
Directors, motion picture 
Don Juan (film) 
Duncan, Lee 

Eastman Kodak Company 
Edison Phonograph System 
Editing, film 
Editing, sound 


early attempts 

lip -syncing 


Fairbanks, Douglas 
Film, motion picture 


improvements in 

manufacture of 


standardization of 
Flynn, Errol 

Forty - second Street (film) 
Fox Case Corporation 
Fox Movietone Newsreels 

General Electric Company 

Germania Club of New York 

Giant (film) 

Gilbert, John 

Glorious Betsy (film) 

Gold Diggers of Broadway (film) 

The Greatest ^ory Ever Told (film) 

Groves, George 

early life in England 

early musical training 


move to America 

employment with Bell Telephone 


musical activities in New York 

transfer to Warner Brothers 

work as sound mixer 


adley, Henry 
Hay6> Will 
High Noon (film) 































International Brotherhood of Electrical 

Workers 46 

The Jazz Singer (film) 18,19-20,78 

7oTson7~Ar~^ 17,19-20,28-29,78 

Korngold, Erich Wolfgang 79,80-8l,84 

Kriens, Christian 7 

Labor unions, in motion picture 

industry kk-ks 

employment practices 46-49 

Lemmon, Jack 82 

Lighting, in motion pictures 

arc lights 33,56 

incandescent lights 33,56 

The Lights of New York (film) 24,58 

The Lion anT"the Mouse (film) 20 

Liverpool University, England 2-3 

Loudspeakers, early development 12-13 

Mancini, Henry 79,82-83 

Manhattan Opera House, New York 11-12,17-18,65 

Martinelli, Giovanni I6 

Mendelssohn, Felix 8I 

Mendoza, David 12 


booms 97 

carbon-button type 9 

condenser type 9 
condenser- transmitter-amplifier 

(C.T.A.) 9-10 

early t3rpes and techniques 9-10,24-25 

methods of concealing 25 

movement techniques 26-27 

multiple pick-ups 15-16,50-51 

operation of 62-63 

A Midsummer Night's Dream (film) 80 

Uitchell Bite (camera") 26 

Motion Picture Producers Association 16 

Moviola 56-57 

Murphy, Frank 33 

Music, motion picture 

background 76 

composers of 51-52,79-85 

composition of 59,65,66-75^76-78 

postscoring of 65,66-75 

prescoring of 65-66,76-78 

recording of 64-79 

Music Man (film) 85,88-89 


Music mixing 

MX Fair Lady (film) 

Nagel, Conrad 

New York Philharmonic Orchestra 

Nun's Story (film) 

Office Workers Guild 
Old San Francisco (film) 
On With the Show "(film) 
Orthophonic Phonograph 

Peal-Connor Telephone Company, 

Coventry, England 
Playback reproduction 
Progressive education 
Projectionists' union 

Radio Corporation of America 

recording system 
Recording, sound see 

Sound recording 
Remick, Lee 

early techniques 

nodern techniques 
Rin' Tin'.! Tin 
Rosenblatt, Cantor 

Sayonara (film) 

The Show of Shows 

Society o7~M6tlon Picture and 

Television Engineers 
Sonny Boy (film) 
Sound Editors' union 
Sound mixing 

Sound production and storage 
i/Sound recording cx^tl. vAJLOroc3o-3^m<:. 

aeolight system '=^ 


galvinometer technique 

light valve system 

magnetic recording 

of music 

noise reduction system 


RCA system 


Sound studio personnel 































Soundmens Union 
Sponable, Earl 
\/Stelner, Max 

Stereophonic sound 
v/Stevens, George 
Sunset Studios, Hollywood 

Talking pictures 


Telephones, early research on 

Teleprompter system 


impact on motion picture industry 


sound recording in 
\/Tiomkin, Dmitri 
Todd AO 

Transmission engineering 
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation 

See also Fox Case Corporation 

Vacuum tube, invention of 
Victor Company 
Viennese Nights (film) 
Vitagraph Studios, Brooklyn 
Vi tap hone 

original program of 

recording for 

short subjects of 

theatre equipment for 
Voice production 
The Volga Boatman (short subject) 

Wagner, Richard 
Warner, Sara 
V/Warner Brothers 


Music Department 

Sound Department 

Watkins, Mr. 

v^axman, Franz 
Western Electric Company 

Westlnghouse Electric Corporation 
Westside Story (film) 
When a^ Man Loves (film) 

Zimbalist, Efrem 






































Figure I - Cue sheet 

Figure II - Frame tempo conversion chart 
Figure III - Cued manuscript sheet 
Figure IV - Completed score 

The Figures contained herein refer to material 
beginning on page 68 of the manuscript